Eclectic Moments is appropriately titled when considering this latest short story collection by Vanessa J. Horn and published by Alfie Dog Fiction. There is evidence throughout of the author’s love and extensive knowledge of music as illustrated by the stories that are beautifully lyrical in their representation of musical pieces. The book certainly is a mixed bag, with a few tales giving fictionalised accounts of actual events. Personally, I found the diversity of subject matter interesting given that it included the perceived final thoughts of Ruth Ellis, the last woman in Britain to be hanged; the total immersion of a music student intent on winning a coveted prize; the weaving together of scenes from great literary works to show how the imagination can provide a virtual reality mini-break, and the devastation of Pompeii, to name but a few. However, reading the completed story doesn’t always match up to its promise.
I usually find an author’s staccato writing style adds pace to the narrative when used in the right context, which I don’t think is happening in many of the instances within this collection. Here, I simply found it and the many other grammatical anomalies annoying and difficult to read because of the interruption to the flow of the text. Character POV might change mid-scene proving distracting, and outlandish notions are left unexplained — I’m still not sure as to the cause of the early morning noises emanating from Ms Speakly’s classroom in Identity, and although Chrysalis is descriptive, I remain confused as to the pre-pubescent creature being described. Is it imagined or existing?
That said, I particularly liked the black humour to be found in Bingo advocating a variation on Russian roulette, but substituting the gun for the game now synonymous with the older generation. I also enjoyed Coming Home, which is the second story in this book that deals with the events of Aberfan, a mining village in Wales, in 1966. It is emotive and sad, but also absorbing and ultimately uplifting; it certainly brought a tear to my eye.
Not all of the stories are to my taste but, judging by the other reviews I’ve read of this book, this is not necessarily every reader’s opinion. Try it for yourself and find out.