Hot Kitchen Snow by Susannah Rickards

4 March, 2011

I love short stories. I can read them in one go or dip into them here and there. A story before bed, a story in the bath, a story on my commute. It’s a versatile read. I don’t tend to read a collection all in one go because all the tight little plots can weigh heavily on the mind. They say it’s actually harder to write a perfect short story than a novel because it has to be precise, concise and to the point.

Hot Kitchen Snow by Susannah Rickards is a title I hadn’t come across before, but I like new authors because I’m curious to see what they can offer. There’s a risk there of whether it would work for you or not. There were two things that struck me about this collection. The first was that there were SO many stories in this slim volume, some only a page and others longer. The second was how diverse the stories were. Not only did Rickards write about London, but the various ethnic mixes of London which I don’t think I’ve come across from another English writer that isn’t of Asian origin. And then there were the stories of Africa, of volunteers, of suppression, of ennui. It was deliciously varied and I enjoyed them greatly.

Of the 20 stories, there are a number that stood out for me. Beau de L’air is about a teenage boy invited to the funeral of a girl from his school whom he hadn’t known only to find out that she had had a crush on him and everyone thinks he was her boyfriend. I really liked the way the young boy’s confusion slowly coalesced into realisation. Delicious. Hot Kitchen Snow is a warm and fuzzy tale of two friends and business partners, one of whom has quit, lost his money and who happens to work as a caterer at an extravagant party the other has thrown. The tension, the dislocation and the different ideas of happiness work beautifully. The Last of Her is an unwavering look at expat life and how a young volunteer in Africa is shocked to witness bigotry and prejudice in the people who are supposed to be helping others. The Paperback Macbeth is probably one of the saddest tales in the collection and reminded me a little of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. The Tenth Mother tackles fostering and adoption and how it isn’t as easy as some may think, however good the intention. And my favourite story is Odissi Dancing about Hettie, overweight and nothing spectacular, who by chance falls into an Asian dancing class and is roped in to perform. It’s a beautiful, funny and sweet tale and made me glad I live in a multicultural city.

Like any collection of short stories, Hot Kitchen Snow is a mixed bag. But I think Rickards does a great job in writing contemporary stories on a variety of themes that span age, race and cultures. And part of the joy of reading such a collection is the surprise of seeing what kind of story will come up next.

And can I just say how much I love the cover of this book? It’s SO beautiful.

A big thank you to Salt Publishing for kindly sending me a copy of Hot Kitchen Snow to review.

4 Responses to “Hot Kitchen Snow by Susannah Rickards”

  1. Mystica Says:

    Absolutely new to me and what a quirky title.

  2. Susannah Rickards Says:

    Thank you for such a generous review. I’m delighted you liked Odissi Dancing. That story doesn’t hit the spot for everyone, but I’m very fond of it too.

    Very best wishes,

    Susannah Rickards

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