Dreams they forgot by Emma Ashmere

cover image

Wakefield Press, 2020. ISBN: 9781743057063.
(Age: Adult) Highly recommended. This is an exquisite collection of short stories. Many have a filmic quality as Ashmere introduces a scene and moves like a camera would, resting on an object or a person, and then revealing subtle nuances in gestures or words as we are led further in. The language has the expressiveness of poetry, creating pictures and interactions, leading into stories that leave us pondering long afterwards.
Several stories explore a woman's attraction to a brilliant other, the beautiful but troubled Aveline, or the confident Romaine, or the fascinating Louisa; the admirer herself, an observer somehow less worthy, a 'Lame Horse', or ill or poor and less gifted. There is a suppressed longing to escape from the mundane, to rebel and run free like Vevette and her wild friend Rae.
'Silent Partner' gives a voice to the women ignored in family trees and the records of ancestors and descendants: the so-called spinster Harriet has a loved partner Winifred, the disgraced divorcee still has children, and the present day narrator has a 'great friend' or 'life partner', relationships that are authentic and enduring.
There are also stories of historical fiction, of men scarred by war, drunken fathers, hardworn women and families struggling in poverty, stories imagined from intriguing glimpses of women's voices buried in the archives. The settings range from Australia to England, France, and Borneo, all 'a mixture of memory, imagination and experience' that draw us into scenes from people's lives.
There will be images and descriptions that will stay with you long afterwards, just as the cover photograph suggests thoughts and imaginings; the stories can be read and enjoyed time and again.
Themes: Women, Relationships, Longing, Outsiders, LGBQTI, Historical fiction.
Helen Eddy