I take occasional digs on here at the hype which pervades Twitter where every book is super fabulous but it has to be said I’m often grateful when a book is flagged I might have otherwise missed. Huma Qureshi’s Things We Do Not Tell the People We Love is a case in point. Comprising nine brief stories, this accomplished collection doesn’t have a single dud in it which makes my usual strategy of picking favourites a little tricky.
This sort of thing happened every so often when they had been speaking too frequently or for too long, resentment tinting every word they exchanged like the threat of grey rain in cold spring
It gets off to an excellent start with Premonition which captures the obsession of a first crush constricted by societal rules that forbid teenagers from mixing as a woman remembers the duplicity that cast a long, dark shadow over her own and her family’s lives. Used to feeling at ease in his own country, Mark sees a disconcerting side of his fiancée when they visit her family in Lahore, choosing to erase the impression on their way back to London which doesn’t feel like home to her in Foreign Parts. Waterlogged sees a writer with a novel due to be published whose identity is subsumed in motherhood, her husband apparently unaware of her unhappiness while in Firecracker a woman, settled into adult life, remembers the friend she met at university and how what was once a vibrant friendship petered out. The longest story, Too Much, explores the mother /daughter theme through Shaheen, distraught and disbelieving when Amal cuts all communication with her, eventually coming to an acceptance.
He has shown her many places and many cities, holding them open and unfolded for her in the palm of his hand like a pop-up greeting card for her to stroll about in next to him, both of them side by side
Qureshi’s stories are quietly insightful and reflective, leaving her readers with much to think about. The collection is underpinned by recurrent themes of cultural differences and expectations, the navigation of mixed-race relationships, marriage, love and family. Her stories often catch her characters at a decisive point in lives in which so many things are been left unsaid. Vivid descriptive language draws you in to her characters’ worlds, whether it be an English village in the quirky The Jam Maker or the Tuscan countryside of Small Differences. Qureshi has a knack of conveying a great deal in a few carefully chosen words. Even her acknowledgements are marked by a touching understated gracefulness. I’ve not read her memoir, How We Met, about her experiences of mixed marriage and the tension of parental expectation but I suspect this excellent collection draws on her own life. This is her first venture into fiction and I very much hope it won’t be her last
Sceptre Books: London 9781529368673 192 pages Hardback (Read via NetGalley)