Random House, $29.99 pb, 240 pp, 9780857989130
The best short stories are like a glimpse into a room as you rush past in a train – the messy kitchen table, an empty handbag, the perfectly made bed – a snapshot with enough detail to suggest so much more.
In Six Bedrooms, Tegan Bennett Daylight takes us into the world of growing up, of desire and shame, and of repeatedly making mistakes. She knows exactly what to reveal, slipping the curtain open and closing it again at just the right moment.
The young women in these stories (one of them, Tasha, appears in several) are awkward, ashamed of their bodies. They regard the world with a 'strong, eager, possible look' that makes it hard for them to meet their own eyes in the mirror and for us to gaze on them as they stumble through adolescence. They do not belong and they know it, but nor can they quite lay claim to being misfits ('I called us misfits before. I wasn't quite a misfit. I didn't have the courage for that').
They are trying on emotions and personas as you would clothes, and the fit is often wrong. In 'Trouble', two sisters are living in a borrowed London flat. It is a hushed adult space in which they do not belong. For the youngest of these sisters, failure to inhabit this space with any ease mirrors her failure to inhabit her own experiences and desires, as she drifts through her life wishing she were someone else.