In Paradise Block, mould grows as thick as fur along the walls, alarms ring out at unexpected hours and none of the neighbours are quite what they seem. A little girl boils endless eggs in her family’s burnt-out flat, an isolated old woman entices a new friend with gifts of cutlery and cufflinks, and a young bride grows frustrated with her unappreciative husband, the caretaker of creaking, dilapidated Paradise Block. With a haunting sense of place and a keen eye for the absurd, these thirteen surreal stories lure us into a topsy-turvy world where fleatraps are more important than babies and sales calls for luxury coffins provide a welcome distraction. Lonely residents live in close proximity while longing for connection.
The quarter century or so before the outbreak of the First World War saw an extraordinary boom in the popularity and quality of short stories in Britain. Fuelled by a large new magazine readership and vigorous competition to acquire new stories and develop the careers of some of our greatest writers, these years were ones where the normal rule-of-thumb (novels sell, short stories don’t) was inverted.This was the era of Sherlock Holmes, of Kipling’s most famous stories, of M. R. James, Katherine Mansfield and Joyce’s ‘Dubliners’.