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Ruth Brandt’s debut short story collection tackles stubborn, impulsive and adrenaline-seeking human nature. From the formation of the Berlin Wall in 1961, the early life of Turing, to modern day families, Brandt lays bare the social systems and customs we live by.
To read and recognise Brandt’s characters, is to recognise humans are social chameleons – an acknowledgement that through pain, loss and memories of war, we can choose to love and live with abandon.
“Ruth Brandt carries the reader into the dark heart of our shared hopes and fears. Always subtle, with a deft understatement and a pared-back style, these are stories that open up our understanding of how we are. They are quietly unforgettable.” - Jonathan Davidson, poet and memoirist
In Wenceslas Square, after the synagogues and the memorial, we attached ourselves to an American tour group and listened to the story of the ‘89 Velvet Revolution, of Václav Havel’s balcony speech. Rob marvelled and repeated sections, not knowing that he is recounting my own history.
You came looking for me after ‘89, I know. But everything was uncertain. Lines of communication suddenly closed. So what then of our role to ‘contribute towards the downfall of capitalism’ when my country had embraced that enemy? Where did I fit?
I was trained to be invisible. I could walk on sand and leave no footprints, pass along a street and be un-remarked upon. A social chameleon is what you’d made of me. And, Tomas, I was pregnant with another man’s child - that’s how deep my entrenchment in British society had become.
I was good by then, better than you could ever have known. I acquired a new passport, destroyed my papers and my one-time decoding pads. I disappeared for the second time in my life. I hid so that my child and I could have stability, certainty.
Here I am, lying in the shade of a tree in the Rose Garden on Petrin Hill, watching a triangle of sun creep across my foot. Rob has gone to fetch ice creams - he says he didn’t imagine it being this hot here. The scent of roses infuses the air around me and with a man, who loves me enough to bring me to Prague as a birthday surprise, fetches me an ice cream, while all I can hear is my mother crying goodbye in our communist prefab flat. ‘Just for a little while,’ I told her, when in truth I had promised a lifetime commitment to the StB.
"'Lucky Underpants' describes a romantic encounter that goes awry because the narrator becomes distanced by his thoughts. One thing definitely leads to another but not the kind of climax he was hoping for. In the space of less than a page we get a sense of character, a sense of the way his mind works. 'Nothing happened,' says his might have been lover, but for the reader plenty has happened, in fact.'" - Monica Ali on flash Lucky Underpants (Highly Commended 2018 Bridport Prize)
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