Book Review: “That Stubborn Seed of Hope: Stories” by Brian Falkner, University of Queensland Press (2017)
Is it just me or do decent short story anthologies always seem to be in short supply? At least they have in every school I have ever worked in. At my current school, the one we presently use is well-thumbed, dog eared and nearly beyond repair. The fact that it is now out-of-print means that it is impossible to replace, although to be fair we probably need a break from the stories anyway. Since every English teacher uses short stories we always seem to be on the look-out for something fresh. We want something that not only our students will relate to, but something with that unique Australian flavour. I was therefore pretty chuffed to find Brian Falkner’s new book appear in my mailbox.
My first impression of the package was positive. With a monochromatic cover, littered with graffiti scrawl and pops of vibrant yellow, this is an edgy book that will appeal to the current YA market. I must confess though, that the front-page quote by James Roy, did lead me to suspect (or hope?) that this collection might move into the realm of speculative or perhaps gothic fiction. It doesn’t generally do this. Instead, the darkness that Roy refers to is that which evolves from a very contemporary context. After all, some of the best contemporary YA is dark, a little menacing, with a good dose of gritty.
Overall, I found the stories in the collection highly readable. The reality that many stories are hinged on the fears of many young people (fear of death, growing old, disease) will be sure to provoke engagement and discussion in the classroom environment. I especially appreciated the endnotes relating to the origin of each of the stories. Students, particularly our aspiring writers, always seem to enjoy hearing about what inspires great writers. In this light Falkner’s message was clear, when writing stories (as our students almost always do after reading an anthology such as this one) it is best to draw inspiration from one’s own experience.
That Stubborn Seed of Hope is a captivating collection of beautifully crafted stories that will entertain and inspire Young Adults aged 14+.
Tanya Grech Welden