Released this spring, A Book Of Blues, is the latest collection of short stories from Courttia Newland accomplished British author and playwright. Though the title might suggest the stories are depressing or melancholy, they are instead thoughtful and entertaining, showing slices of life from very different viewpoints.
You have a music journalist in Miami Heat dealing with post break-up issues while attending a press trip, a young man dealing with bereavement in a most unusual way in Underground and a heady holiday romance between a poet and a reluctant trainee doctor in Beach Boy, all stories told vividly and told well, but it is Newland’s ability to take the mantle of his different characters and tell us their tale in their own voices, in their own style that sets him apart from some of his peers. Not all writers could switch so easily from a party-loving West-Indian mother of a teenager in All Woman to the excited wannabe MC in Fresh For ’88 with such ease, nor do two wildly different characters such justice.
Newland’s 2006 collection Music For The Off-Key featured slightly darker stories but each one was good enough to stand alone, and this collection follows in the same vein. If like me you have been waiting too long for a new novel from the writer of The Scholar and Society Within – which was the basis for West 10 LDN, a series pilot produced by Noel Clarke for the BBC– A Book Of Blues serves as a temporary balm, giving you little train-journey sized chunks of good reading material. The book reminds me a bit of Miranda July’s No One Belongs Here More Than You in that the stories are left quite open for you to draw your own conclusions about the fate of the characters. For me, the mark of a great story is when elements of it keep floating around in your brain long after the book has closed, and when it comes to creating lingering images in your mind, A Book Of Blues does it with style.
What do you think of A Book Of Blues? Have you read any of Courttia’s other books? Do you wish he would hurry up and write his next novel? Let us know in the comments!