An excerpt from the book, Strange by Shreya Sen-Handley...
“Huh?’ barked the policeman who’d originally interrogated old Jay, almost apoplectic. ‘So, he’s been slipping you songs and not body parts? He lured you into dingy carparks to ply you with music, not drugs, and NOT sex?’ The youngest of the children looked at the policeman horrified that he had said the S word. Hadn’t the same man lectured them two weeks ago about avoiding pervs? The kids had never imagined that was why everyone was making such a fuss. The very utterance of the scary word, however, caused a seismic shift in the room. The focus of everyone’s distaste shifted to their bungling police force that had handled the case so badly. The parents announced that they were dropping charges. They would communicate that to the missing family too, that of the girl who’d been sick since the incident. They were confident the latter would go along happily. Back to being perfect, untampered families, they felt bad about having put the misunderstood man through the rigours of arrest and incarceration, even though they didn’t like his clothes, his taste in music, or the fact that he was taking money, however small (since they hadn’t noticed any missing), off their kids. They wondered if they should invite the unfortunate fellow to dinner. They had heard he had once been one of them, with a picket fenced home and a white-collar job in IT. His wife had left him apparently, taking their children with her in an acrimonious split, and it had all fallen apart for him. Perhaps if they embraced him to the bosom of good society again, he might cease and desist from his minor crimes…” Please click on image to read the rest of this excerpt from the short story ”Beyoncé and Jay-ji’ in ‘Strange’, HarperCollins, 2019.
“Former television journalist and producer for CNBC and MTV, and East India head for Australasian Channel [V], Shreya Sen-Handley is the author of two books with HarperCollins, the recently published short story collection Strange, and the award-winning Memoirs of My Body, published in 2017. A librettist for the Welsh National Opera, the first South Asian woman to have written an international opera according to the international press, their multicultural opera Migrations will go on tour in the UK in 2021. Shreya is also a columnist for the international media, writing for the National Geographic, CNN, The Hindu, Times of India, The Guardian, and more, a creative writing teacher for British universities and other institutions, and an illustrator for Hachette, HarperCollins, Welsh National Opera, Arts Council England, and Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature. Her short stories have been published, broadcast, and shortlisted for prizes in Britain, India and Australia. This year she wrote her first ever poems, which went on to be published and broadcast in Britain and India, as well as spearheading a British national campaign against hate crimes. She is currently working on a new Welsh National Opera production Creating Change in which she combines poetry and illustration, and writing her third book for HarperCollins, the travelogue The Accidental Tourist, alongside her monthly column for top Asian newspapers The Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle.”
Please click on image to read an excerpt from ‘Strange’, HarperCollins, 2019.
“Having had two children, and perfectly aware of how they came about, it’s not romantic or affectionate smooching that perplexes, but the formal, impersonal, performative variety, practised with relative strangers…” Please click on pic to read the whole article.
“Like many women, I have known psychological, sexual and physical abuse. The knowledge of what goes on in our ‘everyday’ lives beneath the unruffled surface that patriarchal society forces us to maintain is key to why women write horror, crime, and the supernatural so often and so well. We not only know what lies beneath, we have learnt to cope with it, gently and silently building up to a startling dénouement, both in our lives and our fiction.” says Sen-Handley…
I will get my hands in the soil and nose in flour, my fingers inky with new writing and missives to the elderly, and my eyes set firmly on the beautiful four who are my world (click on pic for rest of my column in Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle)
A college in Kutch too was painting the town red. Not with satin hearts and red velvet cupcakes, but with blood…(click on pic for the rest of the second instalment of my column in the Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle)
“Greta Garbo, and Monroe
Dietrich and DiMaggio
Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean
On the cover of a magazine”
Always fun to find yourself on the cover of a magazine, especially under the headline ‘Strange and Beautiful’. Since model/actor Milind Soman is next to me, I can safely assume I’m strange and he’s beautiful!
“It is hard to articulate an emotional response towards Strange, Shreya Sen-Handley’s collection of short stories. The collection oscillates between sci-fi, fantasy, horror, romance, mental health, surrealism and dystopia. The closest one gets is an eerie head tilt, the kind that you see a dark-coloured cat do when it seems to be staring right through your soul.
What Handley has perfected is the art of deliberate obfuscation to throw the reader off. She creates an ether-like environment by revealing minimal detail. A most reluctant narrator and an accomplished illusionist, she shows only what she wants you to see. Halfway through the collection, the reader starts fearing what she holds in her other hand, the one she hides behind her back. Thematic parallels can be drawn to Black Mirror and Love, Death and Robots. Similar to these shows her stories begin from a point, in reality, a surrounding that is relatable and then it is her prose that lifts her universe just a few inches above the ground until it floats above our own, shimmering and within it a constant, sinister reflection of our own. In Handley’s worlds, the reader is a sleepwalking tourist completely at her mercy, walking with only a hazy image in front of them…..
Another tool that Handley employs rather well is the penultimate twist. It is a fine balancing act she pulls off ensuring the penultimate twist is devastating enough to appear to be the final one and yet the final twist still builds up. In a short story structure where pacing is key achieving this requires special mention. In Lean On Me, a wheelchair dependent man enters into a relationship with his healthcare worker and moves into her home. Erratic behavior on his part soon leads to a discovery of many other potential lovers being cultivated online and his exit from her home. What he leaves behind is shockingly poetic. Handley also has a few zingers by way of opening lines peppered through this collection including my favorite, “Tom Hiddleston and Idris Elba walk into a bar…” Often she uses unconventional words and structure to hammer home the strangeness of the collection which has a wonderful effect, such as the word ‘un-undressed.’
Shreya Sen-Handley’s Strange is a lovely little eccentric collection that merits a place on any bookshelf. One would call it a success simply by how badly one wants to invite the author to tea point at various passages and demand more details. Such as what was on the chit that was passed to Arnie. Each story is so well interlinked so finely constructed that the reader tends to go back and forth to ensure there is no tiny detail that has escaped the first read. Handley’s is a refreshing voice in the scares department and one hopes it will only get louder and creepier. If you are into the ‘chills’ this is not to be missed.”(click on picture for full review)