This is a compilation of five novellas each demonstrating the different ways those who seek to manipulate others operate. The author has used a number of different types of relationships to expose the psychology of such a partnership and although the end results are disturbing, it is often the case that the beginning there were no great big warning lights and claxons.
Although the tie in this anthology is the manipulator the characters are quite distinct, as to a certain extent is there particular brand of abuse. In the first tale we meet the narcissist old and ill in a hospital bed and his story alternates with his visitor. This clever tale gives us a picture of a life lived bending other’s to this man’s will using any means possible to reach his object, reflecting on a life right back to childhood. In the second story Tess and the Tattoos we have an elderly woman contemplating the choices she’s made in her life whilst the third, The Spell has younger characters, a woman, a man and a young child which is once more a reflective tale. The fourth story is Runaway Girl, and probably my favourite of the collection has a 15 year old girl as the subject whilst the last story is the story of a woman who comes to motherhood fairly late in life.
The author has clearly researched her subjects, one has to hope from a safe distance and as all of these stories are reflective it is entirely appropriate that the traits we know are associated with manipulators are replayed by the narrative although I have to confess this reflective nature made me feel less involved with the actual events because the very nature of recollection is to put a spin on things to be told ‘I should have realised…’ didn’t adequately give me any sense of when the realisation came, what the subject told themselves through those first signs etc but this is a personal preference possibly due to wanting to know whether I would have spotted anything, given the same situation.
What this book does give us is a chance to relate this wide selections of both the perpetrators of this trait and their victims to those characters we all know for whom this style is the one they prefer and of course in certain situations it is one that is held in high regard. Only yesterday a job advert went out with one of the key skills was ‘An influencer’ now putting aside the business jargon, what the company wants is someone who can persuade a whole room full of people (if not the entire office, company and maybe even the world) to be persuaded that what is being proposed is the only right course of action – the same skill as a man convincing a woman that of course she wants to be at his beck and call to the detriment of the rest of her life, or the young boy who convinces his mother that he can do no wrong!
Sometimes it is hard for authors working on a themed collection like this to separate the voices out and I was a little worried when we came to Runaway Girl who was much younger than the rest of the characters in the book, would the author be able to switch away from the almost cold and distant narratives of the previous narrators to the naturally more impulsive actions of a teenager, and she did, which is possibly why I enjoyed this story the most as the mixed emotions of the moment came shining through.
I’d like to thank the author for forwarding me a copy of this book, it has been a unique experience for me as I rarely read novellas and never before have I read an anthology built around a personality type.