Review: Dead is Dead and Other Stories by Jane Seaford

Published November 23rd 2016
ISBN13: 9780473371210
Edition Language: English

The title of this stunning new short story collection is appropriate. Although not every story involves death, each one shows the world as it is, with imperfect people and unfair situations. We can relate to Jane Seaford's characters because they are like people we've known; they might even be like us. Jane Seaford writes about people from all walks of life, and views the world from a number of different angles. The child's perspective is used to great effect in the title story and in others (e.g. 'One of Those Days', 'Cheryl and Me'). In these stories the child does not truly understand what she is seeing, and this allows the horror of family life to be presented in an unbiased and non-judgemental way. There is also an extra layer of meaning, as the reader comprehends what the child cannot. Jane Seaford's protagonists are children, adolescents, old people, desperate people, professional people and disturbed people. Sometimes the narrator is the villain and sometimes the story is told by an innocent bystander. It is the author's scope and versatility that make this collection so exciting.

I found it difficult to choose a favourite story, but two that particularly fascinated me were 'Remembering Peter' and 'Matilda the Determined Woman'. 'Remembering Peter' questions our ideas of normality, and also the way we treat people considered to be mentally ill. 'Matilda the Determined Woman' begins with the protagonist standing on the pavement screaming, as you might expect from a perfectly sane character occupying an insane world. Matilda is attempting to write an essay that answers the question of whether or not there is free will, while at the same time enduring a demolition site next to her home and a visit from her mother, with whom she has a difficult relationship.  This is not a story that will answer the dilemma of free will versus determinism, it is one that shines more light onto the complexities of human relationships and the reasons we behave as we do.

After reading 'Dead is Dead and Other Stories' I went back and read several of the stories again. These multi-layered stories invariably reveal something new upon a second reading. And they most certainly pose more questions than they answer. Like all the best short stories, these ones will keep the reader thinking long after the book is finished.
Rocky Hudson
Rocky Hudson is a freelance writer and editor now based in the UK. In her limited spare time she writes short stories, a few of which have appeared in the New Zealand magazines Takahe and JAAM.