By Colin Winnette
Atticus Books, $14.95, 246 pages
It’s very possible that Colin Winnette sat down one day and wondered to himself, “Is it possible to take the entirety of War and Peace and condense it to about ten percent of it’s size?” If so, then Winnette’s Fondly comes suspiciously close to that vision.
Fondly comes as a pair of novellas, each a little over a hundred pages long. The two stories are In One Story, Two Sisters, and the second is Gainsville. The first of the novellas tells the story of two sisters, and then retells it over and over again, as if the novella is never satisfied with the story it begins to tell. It places the sisters in increasingly surreal and absurd situations. At one point the sisters are a couple of old women who have lived their lives, and in another story the sisters are transatlantic Olympic swimmers, and yet in another story the two sisters make up two halves of an olive in a martini glass as they’re being digested. The second of the novellas, Gainsville, is closer to home with the War and Peace analogy. He tells a story of a family that progresses and changes throughout many generations. Every couple pages focuses on one character, and that character goes and has a child, which the story then focuses on, pushing the previous character into the background, eventually ceasing to matter.
The prose pushes the story forward as quickly as possible, since the nature of the novellas don’t allow much digression into characterization and plot, but it doesn’t need it. Winette’s writing is tight and fast enough to keep the reader engaged, if just to see what he does with it. The stories do become a bit repetitive, but they end before they become a problem.
Reviewed by Gregory A. Young