RAGBAG by Jonathan Land  Evans


A Collection of Short Fiction
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A prolific Bermudian writer delivers a short story collection.

Evans (Stories from Hither and Yon, 2018, etc.) offers a glimpse into island life in this wide-ranging and diverse assemblage of tales, which also includes “personal commentary and musings, plus various sketchier odds-and-ends.” More than 80 pieces—some fully developed stories, others mere sketches or humorous scenes—are packed into just over 230 pages. Many span no more than a page or two and some have appeared in the author’s previous collections, Bermuda Stories and Stateside Stories (both 2018). The new book is at its best when Evans explores the unusual facets of Bermudian culture, with its idiosyncratic rhythms and distinct social dynamic. Literary references abound. In the first story, “Cabin Fever,” a character is writing a song cycle based on Joyce’s Ulysses. Another, “Hassles in Spain,” is written in a Henry James-esque style and has Ernest Hemingway encountering a female guerrilla fighter. Evans has a keen eye for detail. Bermuda’s “sea-water, alive with brisk little waves” is said to dance like “some vast, lightly-shaken jeweller’s-tray,” and an “an armada of stern little dark-grey clouds” moves across the sky. In “Trump This,” a brief satire, a man proposes rebranding iconic American products like Coke and Drano with names inspired by the current political climate. In “Mis-Observation,” an overeager Mass-Observation volunteer (a real group in England charged with monitoring British life) thinks she may have uncovered a plot to topple the government. “White Roads and Moonlight,” one of the eclectic volume’s longer stories, is also one of its standouts. In the quietly amusing and perceptive effort, the author explores the interconnected lives of a Yankee painter, an idle private detective who moonlights as a calypso singer, and the sleuth’s love interest, the daughter of a prominent Bermudian family. There’s charm in this self-described ragbag, but given the sheer number of stories included, readers may find it challenging to separate the wheat from the chaff. The collection could have benefited from some judicious culling.

A mixed bag of tales of particular interest to those with a connection to Bermuda.

Page count: 234pp
Publisher: Self
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:


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