Recommended Reads: Table Manners and other stories

Every year at Dahlia Publishing we provide a placement for two students from University of Leicester to undertake a 70 hour project. The placement forms part of a publishing module and offers students the opportunity to gain some valuable hands-on experience at a small press. 

This year, Ella March spent ten weeks with us. She was particularly keen to work with short stories and has written a short blog about her favourite short story from  Susmita Bhattacharya’s debut collection, Table Manners and the connections she found to her other favourite books.

It’s not exactly an uncommon experience to wake up to the sound of someone you love calling your name. It’s a little bit more so if that someone is dead. That is what happens to Mouli, the main character of ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’.

It takes her a little while to work out what’s happening- and if you don’t know, then you should read the story! But if you have read it, then you’ll know that hearing her husband’s voice helps Mouli come to terms with his sudden death, and her isolation from her family in its wake. Here are a few more books which deal with similar themes.

The obvious connection between ‘Good Golly’ and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman is the isolation experienced by both of the main characters. They are perfect examples of how grief can make you feel trapped, but they also eventually find a way to let other people help them. Neither of them can be said to have truly happy endings, either- you come away feeling that you understand the characters, and wishing them well beyond their stories.

‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ is in many ways similar to PS I Love You, by Cecilia Ahern. If you enjoyed reading about how Holly came to find a way forward in her life without Gerry, you’ll also enjoy reading about Mouli’s journey. There are a lot of parallels between their stories, not least the peace it brings them both to feel like their husbands are still a part of their lives and the way they renegotiate their relationships with their friends and family. However, there’s a more humorous edge to ‘Good Golly’ that’s bound to make you smile.

The suddenness and brutality of death, which Mouli cannot really cope with, is also a struggle for the family of Maddy in I Liked My Life, by Abby Fabiaschi. Just as Maddy’s daughter Eve and husband Brady wonder how their beloved mother could disappear so abruptly, so there is an air of shock in the way Mouli reflects on her husband’s death. There is also an element in both stories of loved ones never fully leaving, and the knowledge that the only way of honouring a life loved is to move forward.

Finally, another story about accepting death is A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. This is a book which can be equally enjoyed by children and adults, and features a main character who feels just as isolated in his grief as Mouli does. Both characters also choose to find refuge in memories of their loved ones in happier times. They are both heartbreaking tales, but ultimately rewarding to watch the characters accept the magnitude of their loss.

Like many of the other short stories in Susmita Bhattacharya’s anthology Table Manners, ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ is not a happy story, but it is a hopeful one. It reflects on human life and love and pokes into the corners of how we deal with loss.

‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ is a short story in Table Mannersavailable from Dahlia Publishing.

Ella March is a final year student at the University of Leicester. She studies English and Creative Writing and is hoping to go on to a career in publishing.

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