AL Kennedy - What Becomes (4 stars)

AL Kennedy - What Becomes

Glasgow writer and sometime comedian AL Kennedy does nothing to overturn her reputation as a miserablist in this latest collection of short stories. Through a litany of everyday tragedy, marriages crumble, feelings are trampled on and lives are lost as physical and mental cruelties are wreaked from sources both internal and remote via death, the economy, lust, war and toothache. As Kennedy asserts in ‘Whole Family with Young Children Devastated’, ‘huge and harmful forces stalk humanity unopposed’.

Versions or parts of each of the 12 stories have previously been published separately, but the similarity in tone works towards a cohesive whole. Taking turns to fully inhabit each victim’s persona, Kennedy’s deft descriptions, accomplished turn of phrase and impressive range of styles are all present. Thankfully, so is her mordant wit. Her restraint in avoiding the temptation to offer explanations or consolations is admirable, and the final tale, ‘Vanish’, ends with only a bittersweet solace and camaraderie in defeat.

(Jonathan Cape)

Words with AL Kennedy

  • 4 stars

Where Pringles, Shakespeare and Tasmania meet; why poetry gets imprisoned; how words can change your mind, your story and possibly your world. A poignant and hilarious new show from Costa award-winning writer. 'Startlingly good' (Guardian).

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