What’s The Common Enemy all about?:
The Common Enemy looks at the things that irritate us the most, yet when something terrible happens we may appreciate how lucky we are and how trivial those matters can be.
What did I think?:
For my Short Story Challenge, I’m rotating a number of collections around in sequence to try and get a bit more appreciation for the genre. So when I knew The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime (Volume 7) was coming around, I have to admit I sighed and rolled my eyes a bit as, to be honest, I haven’t been that impressed with the stories so far. I’m so glad I persevered with this collection as Natasha Cooper’s short story The Common Enemy really knocked my socks off. The story opens with an average couple, Dan and Sue Chalmers who are watching the News at Ten when they hear some noise from some teenagers outside. Sue seems to be livid with rage and we get the feeling that this is a common occurrence where they live. Even the gentle touch of her husband’s hand against her head does not ease her tension but when she listens to the newsreader talking about the problems in the Middle East she feels a bit chastised for getting so wound up about a bit of noise. After a little while, the noise ceases and Sue can hear the more familiar sound of her neighbour, Maggie Tulloch walking home from work whom she admires for being a probation officer and:
“trying to make her clients behave like human beings instead of filthy, thieving thugs.
Sue notices that Maggie’s footsteps seem to drag more than usual and she would be right. Maggie is having quite a tough time at home and tries to delay her arrival by any possible means, even if it means working late. When Maggie’s father died, Maggie invited her mother to move in with her, believing it would do them both some good. Her mum would have the company and Maggie would get some much needed help as she was raising her child, Gemma as a single parent. Now Gemma is fifteen and Maggie is regretting that decision enormously. Her mother is over-critical of everything she does, including how she brings up her daughter but she also criticises her personally e.g. wardrobe, eating habits – basically, she cannot do anything right and it’s really bringing her down.
That’s about all I’m going to say plot-wise because something happens that throws everything into disarray and changes lives for good. (Apologies too for the very vague synopsis). While I was reading this I actually missed my stop on the bus because I was so engrossed in the story! Furthermore, it’s not so much the turn of events that blew my mind but the way in which it ended. Shocking, thrilling and completely unputdownable, this story made my heart race and my eyes pop. I would have loved a little background information about the author in this collection as I haven’t read any of her work before but believe me, I’m going to now. If you get a chance to read this story please do and let me know what you think! Pure brilliance.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Note To Sixth-Grade Self by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater