Tag Archives: Amanda Huggins

#BookReview ‘An Unfamiliar Landscape’ by Amanda Huggins

An Unfamiliar Landscape, the new short story collection by Amanda Huggins, is made for dipping in and out of, comprising longer reads with satisfying snappy flash fiction. There is something in every story that made me think, ‘that’s so right,’ or ‘that happened to me,’ or ‘I know how that feels.’ That’s why everyone should read her work. Amanda HugginsThe landscape changes from story to story, from Huggins’ native Yorkshire via Paris and London to Spain and Japan. Each story offers a glimpse of a relationship, an insight into the emotions of love, hope, longing, loss, betrayal, regret and grief. She writes about everyone’s emotions, her stories seem familiar, so well-worn and lived-in they must be true.
‘Ten of Hearts’ is a short, hard-hitting story about magic, about vulnerability, gullibility and sleight of hand. Once bitten, it is difficult to move to a new relationship but often too easy. A previous version of this story was broadcast on BBC Radio Leeds in 2021.
In ‘Eating Unobserved,’ Marnie rents an apartment in Paris where she will work on her next book. Seduced by the beauty of the apartment and the simple delight of the food, she spends her time alone. Until one dark night she sees a light on in an apartment opposite, a man unpacks groceries and pours a glass of wine. For a few nights she watches him, and then grows bolder.
Sam and Isla are in the kitchen in ‘In the Time it Takes to Make a Risotto.’ He is chopping vegetables and she is reading headlines off her phone, reciting his horoscope, sharing crossword clues. As he cooks, her mind returns to the affair she had with his best friend, the lies she has told and secrets kept. As the risotto cooks, the atmosphere tightens with words unspoken.
In other stories, a teenage daughter challenges her father; a tourist visits a war grave on behalf of a friend; a young waiter delivers a room service tray to an older female guest.
Themes recur. Food, the eating and drinking of; the freeing sensation of being somewhere foreign, somewhere that is not home; the assumptions made on first meetings and the subsequent challenging of those perceptions; the making of repeat mistakes; and the time it takes to grieve, both for loved ones, and for chances lost or misused.

Click the title to read my reviews of other short stories, novellas and poetry by Amanda Huggins:-

If you like this, try:-
The Story’ by Victoria Hislop
Yuki Chan in Bronte Country’ by Mick Jackson
Big Sky’ by Kate Atkinson

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:-
AN UNFAMILIAR LANDSCAPE by @troutiemcfish #shortstories https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5Qr via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Crossing the Lines’ by Amanda Huggins @troutiemcfish

I read Crossing the Lines, the new novella by Amanda Huggins – whose previous book won the 2021 Saboteur Award for Best Novella – in one sitting. Based on Red, Huggins’ runner-up in the 2018 Costa Short Story Award, this is the fuller story of runaway Mollie and her dog, Hal. Amanda HugginsFifteen-year old Mollie grows up on the New Jersey shoreline at Atlantic City but when her mother moves to boyfriend Sherman Rook’s home five states away in the west, Mollie goes too. She hasn’t even arrived at Oakridge Farm when she knows she’s made a mistake, and that her mother has too. At her new home she makes one friend, a stray dog. Then after weeks on edge waiting every night for the sinister Rook to stumble in from the bar and rattle the locked door of her bedroom, Mollie hears a gunshot in the henhouse and sees the body of a dead dog. She grabs $20, a road map and a sweater and sneaks out of the house. When she sees Rook’s pick-up with the keys in the ignition, she takes that too.
This is a road trip back east as Mollie faces situations and people unknown, strange, threatening and well-meaning. The driver whose daughter ran away. The store owner whose dog died. The biker who offers her a bed for the night.
Huggins is always a delightful author to read. This story is tightly controlled but her language roams free with some poetic turns of phrase and descriptions that make the emotions, and the dusty Seventies mid-America landscape, seem real. In 139 pages she gives us not only Mollie’s dilemma and the solution she pursues, but the viewpoints of characters she meets along the way and their impression of the girl with the dog. And underlaid beneath it all is Mollie’s past, her friends back east, her regrets, guilt and longing for father Phil and brother Angel. Life, she learns, should be lived forwards. Mollie greets every day as a surprise.

Read my reviews of other work by Amanda Huggins:-
All Our Squandered Beauty, winner of the 2021 Saboteur Award for Best Novella

Short stories:-
Brightly Coloured Horses
Scratched Enamel Heart including Red, runner-up in the 2018 Costa Short Story Award
Separated from the Sea

The Collective Noun for Birds

If you like this, try:-
Etta and Otto and Russell and James’ by Emma Hooper
The End of the Day’ by Bill Clegg
If I Knew You Were Going to be This Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let You Go’ by Judy Chicurel

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:-
CROSSING THE LINES by Amanda Huggins @troutiemcfish #novella https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5nA via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Scratched Enamel Heart’ by @troutiemcfish #shortstories

Scratched Enamel Heart, the latest collection by award-winning short story writer Amanda Huggins, does not disappoint. Featuring ‘Red’, the story shortlisted for the 2019 Costa Short Story Award, the other stories include some gems. Amanda Huggins

There are three stories that stayed with me, returning to me at unexpected moments when I had moved on to another book.

‘Light Box’ is about Alice, a daughter grieving for the loss of her father but glad to be free of the stepmother she never liked, who had tried to wipe the house and their memories clear of Alice’s mother. Huggins has a wonderful simplicity of description that feels just right, such as the beach, ‘a slip of a thing, a nail clipping of pale sand beneath a wide sky.’

With a darker tone than any other story by Huggins that I recall reading before, ‘Uncanny’ is unsettling. When I remember it, it leaves a sense of discomfort. Like looking over your shoulder when walking in the dark, clutching your bag to your side. Perhaps she should try writing suspense fiction. Alan eats every night in the same café where Carol is a waitress. It starts when she comments that a blue shirt would suit him, would go with the colour of his eyes. He buys five.

The last story in this collection, ‘This Final Perfect Thing’ is unbearably poignant. A perfect, short, short story. This is what Huggins excels at, distilling human emotion into two pages that anyone can read and feel deeply too.

Huggins is a consummate story writer, as comfortable with the long form as with the briefest of flash fictions and poetry. Her settings vary from India to Japan, Istanbul to the English seaside and she makes each location real, real for her characters and real for me as I read. Coming in the New Year is her first novella, All Our Squandered Beauty. Watch out for my review.

Read my reviews of other short story collections by Amanda Huggins:-
Brightly Coloured Horses
Separated from the Sea

‘Out Chasing Boys’ is from The Collective Noun for Birds, Huggins’ first poetry collection. Read ‘Out Chasing Boys’ here.

Why is Amanda’s favourite comfort read is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry?

If you like this, try:-
Staying Afloat’ by Sue Wilsea
The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth’ by William Boyd
All the Rage’ by AL Kennedy

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:-
SCRATCHED ENAMEL HEART by @troutiemcfish #shortstories https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4ZY via @SandraDanby