This substantial collection brings together short stories written over a span of forty years, including those first published in the highly-rated Song for Simone (1986) and A Way to Catch the Dust (1999) and more than a dozen new stories. The previously published pieces have been extensively revised. They range from stories set in Grenada at different periods from the 1970s onwards, to several set in the UK.
These are stories that have a narrative drive, a meticulousness of construction, an exactness of image and a rigorous economy in the prose. They are inventive in their explorations of a variety of narrative voices – from children to adults, male and female, Caribbean and British – that establish a persona and capture the reader from the first sentence.
We encounter characters caught at a specific moment of realisation or self-discovery: the uncovering of adult flaws, the understanding that escape also means separation from family or society, or – like the boy narrator of “The Understanding” – the recognition that a gift for words can transform the miseries of his world; or, as in a later, London-set story, a West Indian mother confronting the shocking misogynistic activities of her son.
One of the outstanding features of the collection is its attention to the lives of women and the inwardness and understanding with which they are portrayed. Many of these stories interrogate what women and girls suffer at the tongues or hands of men, and their ingenuity and strength in fighting back.
These stories also convey the importance of place in human interactions.
Several take us to the Caribbean shoreline, the boundary across which visitors (and human predators) come, and across which islanders escape or pit themselves against the power of the sea – as in “A Different Ocean” where a girl finds her diving skills exploited by a dangerous American man. And if the shore suggests the space of tourist recreation, Jacob Ross often holds up to us a much darker place, as in “Rum and Coke” where a mother rails against the sway the local dealer has over her addicted son and does something about it.
Tell No One About This will confirm Ross as amongst the very best short story writers in the Caribbean and the UK.