Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Fighting It by Regi Claire + Giveaway

FightingItVulpes Libris regulars might remember that Regi Claire recently wrote us a moving Soapbox article about the effects of illness on creativity.

In her collection of short stories, Fighting It, as the title suggests, each of the protagonists is fighting against something in their lives. That ‘something’ might be cancer, an unkind spouse, adulterous impulses or even a mental condition that leads to violent tendencies.

The collection is strongly-themed, something very important to me in a book of short stories. I need to feel that the pieces are grouped together for a reason. Ideally, I want the stories to shed light on each other. To make me think wider than the individual pieces at hand. Fighting It is very successful in this regard, but of course some stories work better than others. One of my favourites is the title story, in which “Loony Laura,” a female misogynist and exercise addict, flips out in her prison cell and endangers her cat. Another favourite is ‘Heat,’ a lushly written account of a wealthy woman’s affair and pregnancy, which has a rather Lawrencian flavour about it.

Bad decisions have an important role in Fighting It. The exceptional ‘Cool Room 3’ considers a middle-aged man who finally comes to the end of his tether with his noisy family and dumps them at the side of the road, with unforeseen consequences. Alice in ‘Snow White and the Prince’ believes she made a terrible mistake early in life, and this heavy regret mars the rest of her days. However, as Louise Welsh points out in the Introduction, “Fighting It suggests worlds where choices can be made, though sometimes the options available come from a poor and dwindled stock.” Michelle in ‘Everybody Goes Crazy Once in a While’ tries to put her life on the course it should have taken but finds that her power is limited, at best, to herself; she can’t force the world to accept her.

Cats and dogs have starring roles in the stories, and these animal companions weave their own thread through the collection. ‘The Marilyn Monroe of the Meadows’ is a deeply affecting story about a woman walking her poorly dog, Bonnie. Dog-lovers who have lost their own old canine companions will be particularly moved by the evocative account of the last moments Heather spends with her beloved retriever. This is the final story in the collection and we are right there with Bonnie fighting off death and Heather fighting off the acceptance that her dog is leaving her. It is a painful story that made me love the whole collection that little bit more.

The least successful of the stories for me was ‘I Call her Salome’, a story which begins with a French Ambassador’s wife, and one in which I found it almost impossible to immerse myself. I felt that ‘I Call her Salome’ and a couple of the other pieces suffered from being a tad too long, but in fairness I should declare my general preference for the shortest of short stories.

‘Russian Blue’, a slightly surreal tale about a disturbed patient on the run from a facility was a weird and wonderful addition to the collection. Regi Claire has a gift for capturing the mental imbalances of her marginalised characters and she never resorts to cliché.

The stories are spread over a wide variety of settings, in different countries, times and societies and the reader is left with the impression that they have looked through crystal clear windows into brightly-painted worlds. Louise Welsh calls Fighting It a “truly fabulous collection”, and I’d have to agree. For vivid insights into the human spirit under stress, I’d highly recommend Fighting It.

Two Ravens Press. ISBN-13: 978-1906120412, 176 pages, paperback. £7.99 direct from TRP with free U.K. delivery.

To win a FREE copy of Fighting It, simply leave a comment below. Draw on Sunday 31st May. Good luck!

12 comments on “Fighting It by Regi Claire + Giveaway

  1. Anne Brooke
    May 27, 2009

    This sounds fabulous, and I must add it to my reading list – thanks for the review!

    :))

    Axxx

  2. Tom Vowler
    May 27, 2009

    Look forward to reading this.

  3. Linda B
    May 27, 2009

    Normally, short stories are not my thing, but this collection sounds pretty intriging. Thanks.

  4. Nikki
    May 27, 2009

    I’m another one who isn’t that into short stories, but you’ve actually sold me on these! Well done!

  5. Jackie
    May 27, 2009

    What an interesting concept for a group of stories. The cover captures it well, too. I like the idea of pets having a strong role in the stories, a few sound like they would be too sad for me, but that’s just a personal wimpiness. I thought Ms. Claire’s piece for VL was excellent & I would be interested in reading more of her work, so I ought to check out her books.

  6. battypip
    May 27, 2009

    Not sure I can wait till May 31st to order this book – it sounds fabulous… thanks for the review.

  7. Lisa
    May 29, 2009

    Thanks for the entries. It’s an excellent short story collection.

    Any more entrants? FREE BOOK rrp £9.99 on offer!!

  8. Martin Staub
    May 31, 2009

    It sounds great! I can’t wait to read it! It sounds like a wonderful book. Thanks for the review.

  9. Lisa
    May 31, 2009

    battypip, you’ve won! I’m emailing you now. Congrats!

  10. battypip
    May 31, 2009

    Oooooo! thank you so much! (I am currently suffering from a surfeit of exclamation marks, as you can probably tell. Apologies!)

    I’m really looking forward to reading it, anyway… I’m always pleased to discover a new writer and Regi Claire definitely sounds like one to check out.

    I tend to prefer longer short stories, so I wonder if my views on them will be the opposite to yours… I’ll let you know 🙂

  11. Lisa
    June 1, 2009

    Excellent! If you could email your postal address to bookfoxes AT googlemail DOT com we’ll have it sent out to you ASAP 🙂

  12. Pingback: Tales from Charlotte Square: Vol 2010 Chapter 1 « Lizzy’s Literary Life

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This entry was posted on May 27, 2009 by in Entries by Lisa, Fiction: literary, Fiction: short stories and tagged , , .

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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