From the nightmarish first story set in the South China Sea in 1946 to the final piece, set nowhere at the end of time, Brief Lives demonstrates in a short compass a huge range in technique and milieu and a unity of theme and sensibility. It opens naturalistically but is distinctly non-realist by the close. We meet an ex-collier in 1950 anguishing over whether to return to the pit, a young mother in the early 1960s quietly shepherding those around her through a bleak Christmas day, an industrial chemist in this century plunged into vortices of memories that cause him to question his grasp of the world, and more.
Meredith’s fiction has been marked by its willingness to push at literary boundaries, and Brief Lives is no exception: it is an intense distillation of Meredith’s abiding concerns to explore how memory shapes the present and the present shapes memory, the interplay between beautifully realised individual lives and the wider historical process, and the paradox of simultaneous human isolation and community.
'Meredith’s prose style is as fine and supple as any contemporary writer I know. It quietly and continually embraces dimensions of symbolism, resonances, that are suggested rather than laboured, and left to lodge in the readers’ imaginations and work there. And they do.'
Jim Perrin, Wales Arts Review
'A moving, mature kaleidoscope of human experience, each story a polished stone that sits in the memory and begs to be turned over and examined anew.'
Jenny White, The Western Mail
'Intensely achieved and confirms his reputation as a writer of fierce intelligence and razor-sharp observation.... 'The Enthusiast' [is] the longest and perhaps most powerful and moving story in the collection... It is worth buying Brief Lives for this story alone...
There is a meticulousness in the fine detail of descriptions of people and places that has an almost hypnotic effect.'
Suzy Ceulan Hughes, Gwales
'Superbly written...Beautifully achieved fictions.'
New Welsh Review