Ali Smith’s strength is her ability to write captivating short stories. I love her novels, I loved Artful which was a collection of pseudo-essays, but the thing I love most is most certainly her short stories.
This is her first published collection, it does some of the signature poetic style that she has developed in later years and I don’t feel that all of it is as polished as her later works but this by no means missed the mark as a good short story collection.
This collection was just wonderful; I’ve read a couple of her later collections and it’s definitely noticeable how her work has evolved over the years. It starts off strong, there are 3 short stories that are solid 4/5 – 5/5. The middle plateaus a little, they are good stories with good characters but they just lacked the depth that a lot of her later works have. Towards the end there are a couple more really strong stories that bring the collection to a close on a high note.
The titular story, Free Love, is the first story and is about a young girls first sexual experience in Amsterdam. I feel it was the standout story in the collection. It is about love, friendship and everything in between. It was beautifully written, as is expected with Ali Smith and the characters were so well developed for such a short story. This is a common theme with Ali’s work, however short a piece is she can establish a character to the point that they’re tangible and you, as a reader, know them personally. The depth she can put in to a relatively short amount of words is insane!
The other favourite I have is Text for a Day. The imagery in this was beautiful. The standout bit of the collection was for me this quote which I shall leave you on:
Pages flutter across motorways or farmland, pages break apart, dissolve in rivers or seas, snag on hedges in suburban areas, cling round their roots. Fragments litter a trail that blows in every direction, skidding across roads in foreign cities, mulching in the wet doorways of small shops, tossed by the weather across grassland and prairies.
There are poems in gutters and drains, under the rails laid for trains, pages of novels on the pavement, in the supermarkets, stuck to people’s feet or the wheels of their bikes and cars; there are poems in the desert. Somewhere where there are no houses, no people, only sky, wind, a wide-open world, a poem about a dormant grass-covered volcano lies held down half-buried in sand, bleaching in the light and heat like the small skull of a bird.