Friday, March 24, 2017

Fire Color One, by Jenny Valentine

When things get too hard for her, Iris starts a fire.  And, as she’s grown older, her fires have grown larger.  Seeking to avoid prosecution after Iris's latest, Mom spirits her back to London, which they left many years ago.  When their money runs out, Mom turns to Iris’s estranged father – a wealthy art dealer who is now (conveniently) dying.  He has but one final wish:  to see Iris.  And when Iris's mother reluctantly agrees to grant that wish, Iris learns that there is much more to him than she’s ever been told by her mother.

A brief story that actually carries itself more like a novella (not simply because of its brevity).  The tale relies largely on its surprise conclusion, which provides a decent payoff.  Beyond that, there isn’t a huge amount to it.  It’s a grown-up’s story with a protagonist that just happens to be an adolescent.

The characters are notably weak.  Iris has a boyfriend, but despite his centrality in her flashbacks and a brief appearance at the end, their relationship doesn’t play much import to the story itself.  The mother is pretty nasty, but beyond the tension that exists between her and Iris, even that doesn’t play much of a role.  And the rekindling of the relationship with the father – while core to the story – is told with detachment.  Iris herself is a cipher.  We don't see much inside of her and the process of the rekindling of her relationship with Dad is understated.  Even her pyromania is simply a characteristic and does not evolve or develop (one imagines that it is tied to the state of her relationships with her parents, but that is also a neglected storyline).

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