Anne Donovan, Hieroglyphics

As a format the short story is problematic: it takes some skill to carry off a whole book of them, and it takes an open mind to read them without feeling betrayal when they end prematurely.

Heiroglyphics, the title story of the collection reflects on the necessity or lack thereof, of communication in the modern world. It utilises the Glaswegian vernacular to show the artificial differences created by language. We hear the girl’s thoughts, and we see the simplicity of their desires which Donovan portrays excellently, capturing the tone of a lonely child desperate to be understood by those around her.

Although many of the characters are young Scottish girls, not all utilise the vibrant Gaelic dialect. Instead they are contrasted with more traditional ‘straight English’. In stories as diverse as that of a girl emailing a pen pal on Jupiter, to an elderly woman engaged in ‘Zimmerobics’ this provides amusement and insights into the peculiar world around us, while proving there’s more to Donovan than her linguistic gimmicery.

Donovan has crafted a thought provoking, though not amazing collection, which has so far impressed the judges at the Orange prize, and demonstrates a style that can only lead to more meaty offerings in the future.

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