Kit de Waal, whose down-to-earth short stories follow her much-lauded novel My Name Is Leon, shortlisted for the Costa First Novel award. Leon was a mixed-race child who grew up in care, and Supporting Cast gives more glimpses into characters in the novel, including his troubled mother, Carol. This is a prosaic world of social services, hospital canteens and police brutality, but it has heart and quiet heroism — de Waal’s strength is that she cares about her characters.
Ultimately, although this book doesn’t quite have the pulling power of de Waal’s novels, it will suit the patient, perceptive reader who is willing to go back again and again – to tease out its controlled, telling sentences. It should be obvious, I suppose, that there is more to these characters than can be seen at first glance.
The characters in Kit de Waal’s superb collection of short stories have appeared elsewhere in her writing, hanging out on the fringes of the story and then disappearing into the background.
Here they take centre stage, and blaze into richly imagined lives full of loss, love, abandonment and heartfelt hope.
The collection offers a welcome short-cut to deep immersion in others’ lives with some of the micro-chapters running to just a few pages. This is a book you could read on a journey, on a beach, in a single sitting between dinner and bedtime. And afterwards feel more connected to the world.