Review: Unaccustomed to Grace

First published on Reedsy Discovery

Unaccustomed to Grace by Lesley Bannatyne is a superb collection of short stories which are beautifully human, dark and complex. As stated in the blurb, Bannatyne presents the reader, each time, with a slant reality in which we can recognise ourselves and our ordinary lives alongside the darkest thoughts, feelings and our sometimes perverse desires. At no point does Bannatyne shy away from exposing what it means to be human - to be gloriously forward-thinking and yet animalistic and base in the same breath.

In particular, I enjoyed the anonymity of the narrators in the majority of the stories. We might be given a name but these narrators were ours to imagine and to become. That was the sheer joy of reading this; Bannatyne makes you the narrator, you do not sit in the role of the observer, you become the very human Bannatyne seeks to explore, celebrate and question.

Bannatyne also demonstrates a stunning talent for creating atmosphere; surroundings which are both alive and frighteningly devoid which encapsulate the bare bones of trauma, family, love, grief and death. Bannatyne's characters embody us as a race and as individuals - a balance kept perfectly by Bannatyne's pace and sharp use of imagery and dialogue.

These stories are easy to devour as each story is unique, traversing gritty realities, the ethereal and the quiet of existence. The collection itself is structured brilliantly; nothing felt repetitive or as if stories grew in intensity, instead everything felt balanced - a harmony found in the discordance of humanity.

Ultimately, Unaccustomed to Grace is a collection I would highly recommend. I thoroughly enjoyed both the content and Bannatyne's style. It was the first I've read of Bannatyne but it will not be the last - I was left wholly impressed and I continue to ruminate over the people I met through Bannatyne's words along the way.