I purchased a copy of this book directly from the author.
Gaynor Jones is Northern Soul’s 2018 Writer Of The Year, and it’s easy to see why when you delve into her debut flash fiction collection Business As Usual. This collection of stories, ranging from single paragraph micros to several pages in length, traverses an enormous spectrum of emotion. From the tragicomedy of the title piece, to the gut-wrenching heartbreak of Gone, But, to the spinechilling darkness of Girls Who Get Taken, Jones’s stories take you by the arm and drag you forward.
Gaynor has a gift for the quirky and unsettling, and an uncanny ability to find it in the most urbane of settings. The supermarket. A paddling pool. The fairground. All are given new dimensions in Jones’s beautiful language. Her attention to detail is stunning, as in this introduction from Waiting:
“Even with a pastel cloud of candy floss obscuring her face, the woman next to me is familiar. Flecks of sugar get caught in the scattered moles on her chin as she chews.”
From this intense focus, Jones pans out into the story; but it is this tiny detail that grabs the reader and holds them there in the moment. It’s a pattern repeated in many of Gaynor’s stories, in myriad different ways, always appealing.
In addition to the lyrical and sometimes haunting language of her work, Jones gives a masterclass here on exactly when to begin and end a flash piece. The balance between providing enough detail and trusting the reader is perfectly struck, even when she chooses to finish on a question. Some endings loop back to echo the beginnings of the story or turn on a dime in their final words, leaving the reader gasping. Others are poignant and sad, and stay with you long afterward, such as this one from Blue Is A Feeling As Well As A Colour:
“I couldn’t save her, but she is going to save me.”
This type of resonance is a mark of exceptional flash fiction.
A big part of Jones’s appeal as a writer is her ability to find the story in the everyday; even when one required to suspend one’s belief to get lost in her tales, they still have echoes of the real that make this very easy to do. Where her stories are speculative, they don’t veer so far into the realm of the fantastic as to completely remove themselves from contemporary fiction. Her work is relatable and accessible. Themes of parenthood, mental health, and the female experience emerge frequently throughout; but they are not presented in a way that consigns them to a narrow audience. It’s a rare gift to write the contemporary to such a broad audience, but it’s a gift Gaynor has in spades.
Gaynor Jones is an exciting voice in flash fiction and Business As Usual is an exceptional collection. Fans of contemporary flash will delight in her rich, nuanced storytelling; Jones doesn’t waste words, but the ones she chooses are full of spark and crackle and will stand up easily to being read time and time again.