A diverse, haunting and humorous collection of short fiction, Simon Van Booy offers a collection of stories highlighting how human genius can emerge through acts of compassion. With characters ranging from an eccentric film director, an aging Cockney bodyguard, the teenage child of Nigerian immigrants, a divorced amateur magician and a Beijing street vendor, Tales of Accidental Genius takes the reader on many, incredible journeys, and conveys more in a few pages than many authors would struggle to do in a whole novel.
I’m a fan of Simon Van Booy – I read his most recent novel, Father’s Day whilst on holiday, and found myself moved, surprised, and impressed by his clear, unfussy prose. Whilst that was a fantastically engrossing read, his true talent shines out even more in this collection of short stories – most very short, but all inhabiting completely different characters with huge amounts of skill. It’s hard not to be moved – The Goldfish almost had me in tears, a simple tale of devotion and duty, it tugs at the heartstrings without once slipping into sentimentality, and the other shorter stories manage the same thing too – evocative and moving, but never too much or too overdrawn, perfect in their quiet simplicity
However, Van Booy saves the best for last – as he changes style completely, and transports the reader to Beijing for the second half of the book. Here the reader is told a story in traditional Chinese fable style, and it’s one that I will remember for a long, long time – one about family, love, luck, money and happiness that I’m eager to read again as I found myself completely transported – taken far from smoggy London and deep into Beijing and the Chinese countryside, rooting for the characters to succeed more than I have in a very long time.
There is a huge amount of skill involved in crafting these stories so perfectly – all perfectly formed and ready to eat like a delicious morsel of food, Simon Van Booy is a true master, and one whose work I’m very eager to sample more of in the future. Huge thanks to the publisher for the copy.