What’s Charm For A Friend With A Lump all about?:
This story is written from the perspective of someone whose friend has recently discovered a suspicious lump somewhere on her body. She encourages her friend not to lose hope and promises she will always be at her side.
What did I think?:
I haven’t read anything by Helen Simpson before although I am aware of her writing, having been named one of Granta’s twenty Best of Young British Novelists in 1993. As I’ve mentioned before in previous stories in this collection, the stories are divided into sections and Charm For A Friend With A Lump fits quite neatly into the category – “Stories to read when it’s all going wrong.” As you can probably tell from the title of the story alone, it’s not the easiest of subjects to read about but I was surprised by how uplifting and generally positive both the message and the writing was.
Our narrator for the story is speaking to her friend who has discovered a lump on her body but as yet, does not have any further medical information about whether it is malignant so the big “C” is still very much unknown. At just over three pages long, the author manages to get across exactly what she wants to say and some parts were incredibly poignant that left me with quite a sad smile on my face. The narrator attempts to take her friends mind off the terror of the unknown by asking for her help in what she should plant in her garden this year and then in alternate paragraphs she reassures and comforts her, leaving the reader in no doubt as to the ferocity of her dedication and love. Some parts of the narrative were so beautiful I just had to include them below and to be honest, it was hard knowing when to end the quote, it all seemed important and terribly sad:
“Nobody in their right mind looks at an old oak tree growing in strength and richness and thinks, you’ll be dead soon. They just admire and draw strength from its example. May you keep your hair on and your eyebrows in place. May you never have to wear a hat indoors. May you and your other half tuck two centuries under your belts between you, and then, like the old couple in the tale, when some kind god in disguise grants you a wish may you go together, hand in hand, in an instant.”
There’s so much more I want to re-quote but then I would be in danger of quoting the entire story and being so short, it’s something you should definitely discover for yourself. It’s a wonderful few pages of love, strength and hope for the future from a person we could only dream of having as our support if god forbid, the worst should ever happen. I really enjoyed the way the author used the imagery of plants to represent the force and fragility of nature – the strong oak tree in the above quote compared to the nasty “ruthless invader and ignorer of boundaries” Japanese Knotweed which illustrates beautifully the relentless attack of cancer. Throughout it all, our narrator is eternally optimistic and ensures her friend that she will be there for her no matter what the outcome. Just lovely!
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Paranoid: A Chant by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew