Sweet Song of the Siren (and other stories)

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William Peskett is a prolific writer these days, with several books of poetry, essays and short fiction offerings, and Sweet Song of the Siren (and others) (978-149123-488-1, Durian Books, 2013) is his latest.  I have reviewed a few of his earlier published works, including The Last Boat to Samui, which I finished the review by saying “I did enjoy the vignettes of ex-pat foibles taken to the point of no return, as I am sure you will as well.”  Consequently I began reading Sweet Song of the Siren with some anticipation.

Author Peskett is a master at leading his reader along one pathway and then, at the very end, providing a surprise denouement – and I am not going to give you an example, as that would spoil that short story completely.  What I will say is that he took me totally unawares, and will do the same to you!

Many of the stories have subject matter dealing with memory loss through to outright Alzheimer’s disease.  While reading, I wondered idly if William Peskett was noticing some ‘senior moments’ himself and was weaving them into his stories?

The format is 11 short stories of around 15-20 pages each, which makes it very easy to pick up and put down.  I found there was no particular sequence for the chapters (stories) and quite honestly, I enjoyed them all.

The story which gave the book its title, Sweet Song of the Siren, was a fascinating expose of Thai village life.  Each page will have you nodding and muttering “So true, so true!”  And for many readers it will be “Been there – done that”!

Many of the other stories reflect on Thai life and differences between Thai culture and the western world’s view of life and mores, some of which may open your eyes somewhat and make you re-appraise your own situation.  After all, we are strangers in a strange land, are we not?

Fortune tellers, a staple part of Thai living, get their rightful place as well, though in a very quirky manner.  In fact many of the chapters have that ‘quirky’ feel to them, as author Peskett turns the narrative upside down and sometimes inside out.  He will have you guessing, but if you can find the Thai theme running through each, you will be able to understand them (and Thai people) much more.

Science fiction gets a run too, so it’s not all Thai culture, with a thought-provoking essay of where we might all be in another 500 years.  It also touches on the differences between ‘memory’ and ‘historical’ facts.  What should one believe?  Peskett gives you a brain teaser and one direction that can be examined, especially when one’s ancestors and one’s current society coexist on one planet.

This week’s book for review came direct from Durian Books, without a price, but I believe it will be around B. 400.  Available as a paperback on Amazon and at Canterbury tales bookshop, Chaloem Prakiat off Soi Buakaow in Pattaya and as an e-book from the Kindle store.  Definitely worth a weekend’s read.