This substantial collection brings together stories written over a span of forty years, including from Song for Simone (1986) and A Way to Catch the Dust (1999) and more than a dozen new stories. The previously published pieces have been extensively revised. They range from stories set in Grenada at different periods from the 1970s onwards, to stories set in the UK.
All with Ross's characteristic narrative drive, meticulous construction, an exactness of image and a rigorous economy of style, these stories display a wealth of narrative voices – children, adults, men, women, Caribbean and British – and establish personas that will capture readers from the first sentence. Characters are caught at specific moments of realisation or self-discovery – like the boy narrator of “The Understanding” who recognises that a gift for words can transform the miseries of his world.
Whilst Ross observes the world with a sensitive curiosity, there is a powerful and persuasive moral compass at work behind the shaping of these stories. It is never neat or moralistic, but acts of cruelty and selfishness invariably have consequences for both perpetrators and recipients. Here, one of the collection’s outstanding features is its inwardness with the lives of women, what they suffer at the tongues or hands of men, their ingenuity in fighting back, and what in the male psyche is so problematic.
With a poetic sense of place, several stories take us to the Caribbean shoreline, the boundary across which visitors (and human predators) come, and across which islanders escape or pit themselves against the power of the sea. The shore may suggest the space of tourist recreation, but Ross shows us a much darker place, as in “Rum and Coke” where a mother rails against the sway the local dealer has over her addicted son, and does something about it. Other stories locate characters in the freedom and aloneness of London city life.
Tell No One About This will confirm Ross as amongst the very best short story writers in the Caribbean and the UK.
“Such good writing! A truthful examination of our fraught, unsteady and ambivalent relations with one another and with the world we live in. Jacob Ross writes out of an intense and loving knowledge of particular places. His writing is unsentimental, clear-sighted, urgently insistent on the possibility of more humane dealings. And his lyricism, the making of beautiful sentences, is always an answering back against the fear that we may never do better than we are doing now. His characters do have secrets that may be a joy or a torment to them. But the writer’s responsibility is to speak their most intimate truths, for the good of us all.”