Bull Running for Girls won accolades and a BFA. In many quarters a second collection from Allyson Bird was looked forward to with some eagerness.
Now I don’t know how long Allyson spent writing the stories in her first collection. Several years I presume. There was definitely an impression some time had been spent writing and rewriting them till they had been honed as good as the author could make them.
The stories in this slim volume, bulked up by a big extract from her soon to be published novel, Isis Unbound, have a raw, unfinished feel about them, of having been rushed. The writing is minimalist at times and awkward at others, with characters that are barely sketched in, who rarely, if ever, come alive. Which is a shame, as some of the stories, given more work, had potential. As it is, apart from the overlong, oddly-written opening story set in Russia during the early years of Communism, they barely gripped this reader’s attention and I had to struggle with most of them. Perhaps, in all fairness, she was set a tight schedule to have this collection ready, hence the use of twenty-odd pages of Isis Unbound to pad it out. I don’t know. Perhaps with no back catalogue to draw from for this second volume, and with a novel to be finished, it would have been better to have left this collection till such time as the stories in it had been made ready for publication. As it is, I don’t think this has done anything to help Allyson Bird’s reputation. If you haven’t read any of her stories yet, seek out Bull Running for Girls first. It’s a much better book.