Fresh Beginnings by Leela Dutt

 

An intriguing mixture of stories, all in Leela Dutt’s inimitable style – something here for everyone, and beautifully illustrated by Kate Attfield.

Some are short and funny, some poignant – widows faced with losing their grandchildren, a daughter burying her father and dealing with a domineering mother. One endearing narrator is not human at all but still strikes a chord with us. Time travellers visit Hans Andersen’s Copenhagen; a young German boy is welcomed by some but by no means all in Hertfordshire just after the war. Perilous adventures in a hire car in the south of France are described by a lad who is unaware that at the very moment he’s telling us about his family holiday, London is under attack. A young Japanese car manufacturer encounters the strange people of the South Wales Valleys – and their grandfather who was a prisoner of war in Burma. Finally the life story of a Quaker celebrating her ninetieth birthday at the end of the century.

Leela Dutt’s collection Fresh Beginnings will warm your heart and stay in your mind – it might even make you laugh!

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Fresh Beginnings, the new collection of short stories by Leela Dutt, maintains the high standard of writing we expect from this original and engaging author.

 

Time, and its effects on us, is one of the intriguing themes explored in the collection. In A Royal Wedding, two teen-age cousins time-travel, entering the world of Hans Christian Andersen’s Copenhagen in order to find their missing relative, and find themselves helping another young person in the process.

 

In The Match, an elderly German movingly reminisces during a reunion with his English counterpart from the family who welcomed him as an adolescent after the Second World War, and with whom he has remained friends ever since.  The theme of reconciliation, foregrounded, in The Match, is a recurring one throughout the collection, as in The Ocarina, which treats of healing between nations, and in Blizzard, in which family strife is mended. On all occasions, the subject matter is handled with sensitivity and understanding. We believe in the characters who come to life on these pages, sympathise with their plight, and want to know what will happen to them.

 

 

Humour is also present, especially in A Touch of Natural History, with its charming simian narrator, and in the written correspondence of the title story, Fresh Beginnings, and in that of All in a Day’s Work. Comedy is balanced by thought-provoking stories such as Damage and The End of the Road, with its poignant conclusion.

 

What I will take from all these varied tales is a sense of the uplifting moments in life. I can recommend Fresh Beginnings to anyone searching for a positive and entertaining reading experience.

 

In Fresh Beginnings Leela Dutt shows us how stories can be found - whether in moments of change or in looking back on past experiences.  In this collection we are treated to the perspective of a chimpanzee, a journey through time, post-war hunger and reconciliation,  the blossoming of love and reflections on grief.   If you like short stories, if you like good stories, then Fresh Beginnings is for you.

Dr Kate North, Reader in Creative Writing, Cardiff Metropolitan University
 

Leela Dutt’s ‘Fresh Beginnings’ is a varied, interesting, imaginative and thought-provoking collection, offering the promise of change in the lives of ordinary people. When viewed from the perspective of an ape in ‘Bonobo’, human life is not far removed from theirs but the whole collection of stories suggests a higher moral dimension to our lives which makes us capable of empathy, forgiveness, reconciliation and, above all, gives us the chance to start again.
Kate Attfield’s lovely illustrations at the beginning of each story encapsulate the essence and give us a taste of what is to come.

Noisette

 

 

 

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