My natural scepticism is always brought to the fore when it comes to anthologies, because you can find yourself in a bit of a Forrest Gump situation: you never know what you’re going to get. L is For however, has all of its bases covered.
The L in question varies, depending on how simplistic you might want to be. Love, life, loss, lies; all of these themes are covered in stories that range in subject from “issues with a straight best friend” (‘Alpaca Moonlight’) to “the one that got away” (“The Butterfly Collector’) to more general explorations of life and loss (‘Postcards from Spain’). Many are familiar, not because the stories are contrived but simply because of the universality of the experience they explore, and all have a core of relatability that runs right the way through.
Broadly speaking, the stories tend to linger around the first person narrative and their focus is on women who love women, although this is by no means true of them all. Most have a confessional quality that feels almost like indulging in gossip about mutual friends, and where the voices are strongest (‘The Waiting Game’, ’Love Match’) you can feel a little like you’re overhearing a conversation in a bar or restaurant.
This voyeuristic thrill is heightened when thematically we enter less family friendly areas (‘Frankie and Other F Words’, ‘New York, New Yes’), which deftly negotiate provocative subject areas without ever becoming crass. Surprises appear around every corner, with unexpected plot twists (‘Alana Molton-Croft and Me’, ‘Cloud Hearts’) that show the short story is as capable of intrigue as the longer form. At its most tender, L Is For contains stories dealing with loss (‘I Really Did Love Her’, ‘Encore’) provide a beautiful, nuanced ache.
Overall, there’s a thrill in L is For that keeps you going from story to story, just to see what’s next. This carefully curated flow feels effortless, and does justice for the stories in the collection, keeping you entertained right until the last page.