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Dolly Ramsden has had a tumultuous life. From seeing her father go off to war at the age of 9, to seeing the tragic effects of it on her parents' relationship during his absence and upon his return, she experiences more downs than ups, yet manages to persevere and push through it all. Sherrie Hewson delivers a surprise package in The Tannery, telling Dolly's tale very passionately but also very regularly, almost distantly and factually. You get a strong visual image of the places and events and people that Hewson describes, as the 1940s becomes a decade to forget for Dolly. The way her mother is always off paying for things in sexual favours and working at the pub, letting men 'grope' her all too frequently, is told more as a fact than as an emotion inducing passage in the book. Similarly, the relief and passion she feels with the love of her life appearing from an unlikely source in Stanley, the bullied boy from her school days, is delivered with little passion but a great deal of effect. Everything is delivered in a very flowing fashion, and I felt that any difference to the style would have ruined it somewhat, making it harder to read and harder to understand and visualise some of the characters and events. Hewson describes horrible conflict between Dolly's mum and dad, painting both of them in bad lights on regular occasions, particularly her mum. However, she also manages to show that love can conquer all, as the occasional passage of text seems to vaguely suggest that all will be well with them as a family. However, the harsh reality of the ravaging effects of war, of alcohol and of financial dependence shine through and render everything horrible once more. I really enjoyed reading this, and as we see Dolly attempt to make her way to adulthood despite all of the pain and anguish she has experienced from her parents, you really want things to work out fine. It makes the book flow much quicker and really hard to put down. Its 130 pages or so do it justice, too, and Hewson has used the pages well. As short stories go, it has managed to tell a very full tale in a short space, something I find many short stories often fall short of doing. Written as part of the Quick reads series, it also only costs £1.99, which is a very good price for a short story of its calibre. Definitely not the sort of subject matter I prefer as a norm, and perhaps lacking some refining that could have come with a longer story, but still an excellently written book. It's not usually the sort of tale I would bother with, but after my wife read it and said it was very well written, I just had to give it a go. I'm glad I did. It tells the story very well, and you never know what is round the next corner. Not perfect, but great tale, well written, and hard to put down. Recommended.
I have to say I normally don't choose to read short stories (a throw back to school days) as I prefer something with a bit more depth that allows a story to develop, but as this book was priced at only £1.99 I decided to give it a go. I am so glad I did as I really enjoyed it. I thought that Sherrie did a great job as I did feel that I got to know the main character, Dolly Ramsden, very well. The story takes her from childhood to adulthood. The book starts pre war when Dolly is six and is told through her eyes and from her perspective. It tells of her love for her parents and how the war causes the family to change through events out of her control and how she struggles to cope with these changes, leading to a very traumatic event. Although this is a short story, I found it covered Dolly's story through the years without feeling that anything was missed out. I found her descriptions very vivid and was very impressed how she achieved this in a short story. Sherrie wrote this book as part of a television programme 'Murder Most Famous', where the challenge was to write a short story that involved a murder. I did not watch this programme, but would really like to now to see how this story evolved. I was really impressed with Sherrie's writing style and thought she captured emotions very well - perhaps this is due to her own difficult relationships. I would very much like to see some more of her work in the future.