Emma Lee reviews ‘Both Sides of the Story’ Robert Fairhead

Reviewed ByEmma Lee
‘Both Sides of the Story’ Robert Fairhead

‘Both Sides of the Story’ 

Robert Fairhead

Tall And True www.tallandtrue.com

ISBN: 978-0-6488220-0-4 (eBook)

‘Both Sides of the Story’ is an eBook of five short stories from the widely-published editor of Tall and True short story magazine. The stories are all set in 1993 and, with one exception are set in England. They are thematically linked in that they show people’s choices are informed by experience and observers/readers need to understand the underlying motivations or the other side of the story. 

The opening story is set in the Houses of Parliament in London and has a Member of Parliament trying to write his resignation speech. He’s struggling because he doesn’t want to resign. But trying and failing to write the speech forces him to face up to the reasons for it. He looks at two pictures, one is a family portrait of his wife and children, the other is an aerial map of his constituency. Does a night of ‘indiscretion’ mean he should be forced to give up all the good work he’s done for his constituents? In Bosnia a military unit leader watches his men play football which triggers memories of his childhood and who he was allowed and not allowed to play with. The final incident just after the game demonstrates how war has brutalised at least one of his men, raises this above a simple story of parallels. Back in England, a mother is trying to cook dinner while her sons take their frustrations out on each other. Their father lashes out and it would be easy to blame him until readers learn why the family is stuck in a cramped flat. A former petty thief attempts to earn back respect he think’s he’s owed from his peers. 

The final story links the preceding stories together. A couple are watching the news and the wife suggests that perpetrators of crime became so because of bad things happening to them earlier in life so maybe they deserve some compassion too. The husband disagrees. But then thinks about recent news items: the politician makes the husband think of an evening where he almost cheated, whether those involved in the war in Bosnia did so voluntarily, why hadn’t the wife of the husband who beat his children taken herself and the children away, why would a former criminal turned athletic risk losing his new found success? Through the husband’s thoughts, readers see that life isn’t black and white, perpetrators sometimes are former victims and stories contain layers, they shouldn’t be seen at face value.

Although interlinked, the stories in ‘Both Sides of the Story’ work as a standalone pieces. The characters are recognisable and fully-rounded. The layers built in each story meant these aren’t easy morality tales but are thought-provoking without dictating the reader’s reaction.

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