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Susan’s Bookshelves : All The Women She Knows by Tutku Barbaros

This 2024 publication presents eleven short stories which look at woman’s experience from a range of angles. Some of the eight characters characters feature in more than one story and they’re rather neatly all under one roof  in the last one “A Wedding in Full Swing – like a kaleidoscope shaken into its final pattern.

They are stories about everyday life rather than about anything dramatically contrived thus, for example. the account of Rey going to Cyprus, her mother’s birthplace as part of mourning and meeting her cousin for the first time feels very truthful and authentic.

In other stories we encounter the friendship between Ash and Han, the broken relationship between Mel and Rey, pushy Magenta trying to get her daughter Ruby to do things she doesn’t want to do and much more.

Several of the stories feel very play-like:  two characters who could easily double the peripheral ones and I’m not surprised to learn that Tutku Barbaros, an alumna of the Royal Court Writers’ Programme has written prizewinning  plays and taken work to the Edinburgh Fringe. She is also – clearly –  a poet because in places the stories become blank verse narratives which pound along engagingly. For example this is from “Dia is a Leader”

She has so much to say now that her rage has changed shape.

Now that it’s no longer brittle,

Now that she’s soft

A something flexible with motion, that she can channel

and has channelled

and will channel.

It enables Barbaros to be very direct and to express some profound thoughts and ideas on behalf of her characters without the clutter of, for instance, too many speech tags, Even her prose is like this.

Tuktu Barabos is a South Londoner of Turkish Cypriot heritage and I’m sure that much of the inspiration for these engaging stories has come from her own life experiences. I could have done, though without the rather bossy, didactic list at the beginning telling me which themes underpin which stories – a cross between a trigger warning and a reading lesson in case I missed the point.

You can order this book direct from its publisher Dear Damsels

Next week on Susan’s Bookshelves: Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens





Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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