Jackie Kay - Reality, Reality (3 stars)

Jackie Kay - Reality, Reality

A short story outing with some beautiful moments but overall patchy quality


In the wake of 2010’s fantastic memoir Red Dust Road and last year’s poetry collection Fiere, this short story outing has some beautiful moments in it, and Jackie Kay’s trademark compassion for her characters is intact, but the quality of work is patchy. The finest writing occurs when Kay plays things with a straight bat. The outstanding story is ‘Grace and Rose’, a simple recounting of a middle-aged lesbian couple’s relationship as they tie the knot on Shetland after 20 years together.

Dealing with similar themes in an equally assured way is ‘Bread Bin’, in which a 49-year-old woman recounts her sexual experiences to her elderly mother. Elsewhere, the focus shifts from romantic love to friendship, and both ‘Owl’ and ‘The Last of the Smokers’ are beautiful reminders about lives lived together.

But for all that, there are other less effective stories, either overly familiar scenarios or slightly clunky attempts at experimentalism. When Kay is at her best, her writing is wonderfully uplifting, but that doesn’t happen often enough here.

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