|Cover image by Chloe Firouzian|
WARNING: PLOT-SPOILERS AND REVEALED TWISTS AHEAD.
Perfect Lives is Polly Samson’s third book, following a wildly acclaimed and bestselling debut story collection, Lying in Bed, and an equally well-received novel, Out of the Picture. It’s being published in a year of tremendous quality short fiction: collections by Michele Roberts, Helen Simpson and Salley Vickers have all come out to great fanfare and admiration. Samson’s latest more than holds its own. It hides its power behind a polite smile – the smile of a woman trapped in a terrible marriage, pretending that everything’s okay. Beyond the neat beachfront facades, the good clothes and wine, great haircuts and artistically hand crafted rugs that fur up the surface of these stories is tragic disappointment and emptiness. The characters’ inner lives grate with misery and it is a sign of Samson’s intelligence that she can recognise how misery is not charming but often makes people mean, petty, grasping and selfish. She is too realistic to be sentimental. There is nothing poignant about her work, because poignancy is the stuff of romantic novels and crocodile tears, not the existing world of weakness, damage, intellect and hypocrisy.