This is a book of love stories. Having said that, were Dame Barbara Cartland to settle herself down on a chaise longue with a bag of mint imperials and open the deceptively pink and heart adorned cover, she would, quite probably, choke but the subject of Galloway’s book is indeed love in all its forms.
In this her second book of short stories perfect romantic love is noticeable by its absence. This is love in many guises. Love as reality. Love despite knowing better, love in confusion, love under black skies and amidst broken glass and rusty wires.
In ‘A Night In’ love is glorious lust as a couple break into a boarded up house under lighting and rain. Oblivious. Whereas in ‘Valentine’ a couple go through the motions. The full works: tacky furry lingerie, pink card, singing Italian waiters and she longs for something else without knowing what.
In ‘Proposal’ a couple visit his parents. This is absence of love, a relationship of negotiations, itchiness and dancing to different tunes. She can’t get him to talk to her and he has nothing to say. These are love affairs with second best or tenth best but often making the best.
What makes this so glorious is Galloway’s text. Muscular writing that yanks straight out the nerves of her subjects. Writing that is playful, sensual, sexual and prone to diving off at sudden angles. Stories that can jump and buck and go anywhere without warning, manipulating words, literally bending and sliding the words on the page.
In ‘Hope’ the couple seethe behind home improvement magazines. Communication suspended. Loves are inconvenient too. In ‘Bisex’ a woman waits at home imagining her man with his male lover. Picturing them making love, envying the kissing and the sex but worrying about him having to sit alone in a bar. Care and love intact whilst knowing that what he longs for is not her.
And in the darkest moments there is something else masquerading as love. In ‘Someone Had To’ a woman’s new partner is defiantly justifying to the reader how the woman’s daughter had been “asking” to be scalded in a bath. He gave he a fair chance and butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. Someone had to.
Galloway charts the stages of relationships like suns igniting into yellow giants and then back through decay as black stars. She tears through the let-downs like an avenging angel.
‘Where You Find It’ may make you wonder ‘why bother?’ But then you might read ‘No-one Kisses Like Derek’. His ability to kiss (“good kissers don’t grow on trees”) and his tongue, “like an engorged mollusc”, is discussed by two girls like boys discussing Pele’s ability to bend a 90 yard volley. Time to lie down, Dame Barbara.
Reviewed by Graham Dickson