Caroline Oakley is the coeditor of the anthology "Written in Blood," and is a former editorial director at Orion Books in London.
Editor Caroline Oakley writes in her introduction to this thought-provoking anthology that her intention was to produce a series of light-hearted and warm stories with a very British bent. However, this was not to be the outcome, as the range of subjects, settings and moods in the stories was much wider than shed expected and this variety is one of the many pleasures of this collection. Though every tale does have a common plant theme running through it, Red Dahlias by Nina Schmeider is set within the Indian community in Southall. For many it had been their home for generations; for others, without the flora of their homeland, the transition proved difficult. In Windrush, by Catherine Osborn, we have ghosts in the garden as well as the house, whilst PennyAnne Windsor's satirical take on the floral species Monstera Delicio (a Swiss cheese plant) and the homines sapientes that shop at Swansea's Tesco has us chuckling. Romance is to be found in many of the stories. Hilary Bowers particularly uses this theme in her light-hearted romp in the Edenfield Hospice, where Jenny finds herself caught up in the constant bickering of Dot and Maisy. There also seem to be just too many plastic roses. Then enter Henry with the real thing ... A mismatched pair's marriage ends and another romance blossoms via violin, propagator, and compost in Ruth Josephs Secrets of the Potting Shed. Joseph writes this with the eloquence with which she has become synonymous. In Jonesy's Place, by Catherine Hirst, an uneasy mnage trois between Jonesy, Sebastian and Maggie provides us with the ingredients for a fiery little story of love and betrayal set in a garden centre. Coming Up Roses could be seen as black humour in a velvet glove, with murder and retribution above and below the garden's well-manicured surface. A mother's refuge is next to a pomegranate tree in A Bad Summer for Wasps, a poignant story magically achieved by Sue Coffey; she tells of a mother's sad lament for a son lost during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. A vivid tapestry is crafted in Vivien Kelly's Gift, the story of a woman reaching out for the unobtainable. All in all there are twenty individual and characterful stories to suit all literary tastes. The variation is great from the lonely ten-year-old who becomes enthralled with a gipsy family to the farcical councillor in Ally Thomas's Councillor Abraham's Growing Concern. Coming Up Roses is a collection of stories to dip in and out of, that I would recommend without reservation. Norma Penfold It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council. Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru. -- Welsh Books Council