June 28, 2017

1 Minute Book Review: Come Let Us Sing Anyway

Leone Ross

Name of the book: Come Let Us Sing Anyway

Author: Leone Ross

Publisher: Peepal Tree Press

What’s the book about?

In Leone Ross’s luminous collection of short stories – ranging from richly extended stories to intense pieces of flash fiction, set between Jamaica and Britain –  anything can happen.

Ross’s setting may be familiar and her characters recognisable, but these stories take a magical/fantastical turn that dramatically transforms the way we see. Other stories draw us straight into the world of the fantastical or the implausible with such meticulous and concrete detail that we accept these as reality: a wife returns from the dead and their marital bickering resumes, a headless girl barely lifts an eyebrow among her school companions, a security guard collects discarded hymens and uncovers a deeper empathy for women.

At the heart of the stories is Leone Ross’s refusal to accept any boundary between the erotic and the most inventive kind of pornography. There is a seriousness here too, in the author’s intentions: a vision of the fluidity of the person, the inequalities of the body politic – from the deaths of black people at the hands of the police, to the deep shifts that signal subtle changes in the nature of capitalism.

This is a richly varied, witty and entertaining collection whose frankness may sometimes tickle, sometimes shock; but always engages the intellect and the heart.

Why am I reading this book?

To be honest, I haven’t finished reading the book. I bought Come Let Us Sing Anyway after I read an excerpt on the Peepal Tree web site and I was hooked. But then, after reading just the first line from the first chapter (see below), I knew I was encountering a formidable intelligence—that Leone Ross was attempting something that I hadn’t seen before and I was enchanted.

Quote from the Book: “Mrs Neecy Brown’s husband is falling in love. She can tell, because the love is stuck to the walls of the house, making the wallpaper sticky, and it has seeped into the calendar in her kitchen, so bad she can’t see what date it is, and the love keeps ruing the food—whatever she does or however hard she concentrates, everything turns to mush.”

Update: June 3, 2017. I've finished reading Come Let Us Sing and it has lived up to my expectations. I also learned a few things too.

About the Author

Come Let Us Sing Anyway

Leone Ross is a novelist, short story writer, editor, journalist and academic of Jamaican and Scottish ancestry. She was born in England and grew up in Jamaica. Her first novel, All The Blood Is Red was long listed for the Orange Prize, her second novel, Orange Laughter was chosen as a BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour Watershed Fiction favourite. In 2015, Leone was one of three judges for the Manchester Prize for Fiction.