Today’s team review is from Liz, she blogs here https://lizannelloyd.wordpress.com/
Liz has been reading Donkey Boy by Mary Smith
Donkey Boy and other stories is a pot-pourri of tales that could accompany you on a journey to pick up and read in instalments, or you might find, like me, that you end up reading one story after another, late into the night.
Each tale introduces a character, either from home or abroad, with whom the reader can empathise. Their concerns may be amusing or distressing but they all concern human nature, good and bad.
I was particularly taken by two stories which have been performed; Trouble with Socks and Asylum Seekers. The latter, an ironic monologue of prejudice, pertinent to the world we live in today and Trouble with Socks expressing the feelings of the delightful George who is patronised by a “caring” auxiliary. The last story The Thing in Your Eye was a surprise and I am still unsure of my response. I think I need to reread it.
There is great sadness in some of the early tales but also determination to walk away from grief, but for me Donkey Boy, about Ali, who drives a donkey cart for his father, deserves its place as the title story. It shows the contrast between different values; in the first and third world, between men and women and between youthful hope and cynicism. These stories are easy to read quickly, but they stay in your mind to mull over for some time.
Shot through with flashes of humour the stories here will entertain, amuse, and make you think. Mary Smith’s debut collection of short stories is a real treat, introducing the reader to a diverse range of characters in a wide range of locations. A donkey boy in Pakistan dreams of buying luxuries for his mother; a mouth artist in rural Scotland longs to leave the circus; a visually impaired man has a problem with his socks; and a woman tries to come to terms with a frightening gift – or curse.
Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.
Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.