Laughter Class: And Other Stories
In this, her third collection of short stories, Perriam explores the secrets and lies that entangle people's lives; the dreams and disappointments we often choose to hide. Many of the characters are struggling for release, seeking an escape from rules, restrictions, confinement or control. This freedom is achieved in surprisingly diverse ways - through the companionship of a plush pink laughing pig, or the succour of a stray mongrel abandoned in the street, or by the chance encounter in a charity shop of two desperate brides-to-be. The age-span is similarly diverse, ranging from a teenage girl, determined to disengage herself from her coercive mother's custody, to an intrepid octogenarian who hitchhikes up to Inverness, to avoid the dreaded prospect of stair-lifts and grim wardens in a sheltered housing complex. Food is a recurring theme. One woman resigns her job to concentrate full-time on eating; another stockpiles chocolate HobNobs for her flatful of tame mice; a third gorges herself on grapes, to fill her drab existence with pulsating purple passion. The fact that this feast is imaginary does nothing to dilute its power. In Perriam's world, fantasy is highly therapeutic. Her quirky but courageous characters build gingerbread houses or castles in the air, to fill holes in their lives. Many battle with fears and vulnerabilities, or with the absence of long-lost partners, yet still search, heroically, for love. As in her novels, Perriam probes both the angst and absurdity of the human condition, combining dark incisive humour with a deep compassion for the 'lost souls' she depicts.
The audio rights are handled by Alice Lutyens.