The Last Dance and Other Stories
By Victoria Hislop
In this collection of evocative short stories Victoria captures the intimate lives of the Greek people. Through her intricate observations of daily life she allows the reader to be drawn into poignant events through memorable characters.
The detailed description is what makes Victoria’s writing come to life. She doesn’t skip the grime or sadness – in fact she embraces it and uses it to evoke the atmosphere of a place and the heart of a person.
“It was the silent hour. The wind had dropped, traffic had disappeared, pedestrians had vanished. It was hard to tell whether the stray, still dogs in the shade were alive or dead. Flies seemed to be the only living creatures, ceaselessly flitting from one animal to the other.” P69
The Lesson captures the intensity of a bond between two children just beginning their school lives together. Giannis is constantly berated and humiliated by his overbearing teacher who is annoyed by his disobedience and defiance of her authority. The children are inseparable and the teacher takes huge offence to their defiance as they continue to remain in each other’s company as long and as frequently as possible. Once grown a chance encounter brings Giannis and his teacher back together.
One story tells of feuding butchers with grudges from the past while another sees a saddened mother watching her twin sons competing ferociously with each other to the detriment of their relationship. Another is a wistful love story with a beautiful and intriguing opening:
“In a Melbourne suburb, a young man was unpacking. He retrieved two small objects from the bottom of his suitcase, removed several layers of tissue and placed them carefully on his desk. Apart from the key ring of the Parthenon that he had been given by his aunt, they were his sole souvenir from Greece. The figures, a bear and an eagle, were perfect in every detail and he would treasure them.” p57
All the stories (typical of Victoria’s writing) are thought provoking and enjoyable to read. The benefit of a short story is it doesn’t take too much time to read. And because it is like an emotional capsule – capturing a moment – you don’t feel short changed; you feel like you’ve just peeped through a window and witnessed an argument, an intimate kiss or a lonely tearstained face.