Let me set the tone of this book review with three simple words: I love Saki.
I discovered Saki's writing by accident whilst rifling through a pile of unpromising paperbacks on a second hand book stall, and since then, that battered old book has been with me all over the World. It's a perfect companion for journeys of all types and durations, and a great book to have by your bedside for those days when you're not sure what to read.
Saki is a complete master of the short (and often very short) story. His writing is as light as spun sugar and as precise as a sniper's bullet. If you're the kind of reader who doesn't like to waste time reading unnecessary words, then let me introduce you to Saki, because he clearly didn't want to waste anyone's time.
But there's more to Saki than mere economy of style. His stories are peopled by richly drawn characters and enlivened with Saki's razor sharp wit. In some ways the stories are wonderful period pieces, but many of the themes hold just as true today. There have always been people who've made fools of themselves and Saki takes delight in prodding them with a few well chosen words.
The stories are short but perfectly formed – each one is a satisfying morsel. And they vary in tone so you won't be bored. Some stories are hilarious, some satirical – especially when poking fun at snobs and stuffed shirts, and some are quite dark. But what unites his stories is that they're all entertaining.
Here, I hope without spoilers, is a flavour:
Imagine a man who complains his life is dull to a stranger. The stranger promptly sets out to help the poor dullard out of his rut by bringing chaos to his life. That story is called The Unrest Cure.
In another story, well meaning parents give their children non-violent toys in order to bring them up to be peace loving. Imagine their horror when the children's dark imaginations are played out in unexpected ways. The Toys of Peace.
My favourite is probably The Interlopers – a chilling tale of rivalry and revenge, topped off with a deliciously dark ending. I also have a soft spot for The Reticence of Lady Anne, but I can't tell you anything about that because it's only one page long and I really don't want to spoil it for you.
I hope I've convinced you to give Saki a go – you won't regret it.
There are links below if you'd like to grab a copy. just hover over the cover images to be taken to your local Amazon store.
I recommend keeping a copy close to hand, since you'll want to read the stories over and over again.
If you've enjoyed this book or you'd like to let me know about some great books that I can spread the word about, I'm particularly interested in classics that people may have missed – please leave a comment below.
Here's Saki – I hope you enjoy meeting him:
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