Six Bedrooms (Tegan Bennett Daylight, Vintage)
Tegan Bennett Daylight’s Six Bedrooms is a gritty short-story collection that explores the mistakes and betrayals of adolescence. The characters aren’t always likeable, and the situations they wind up in aren’t always easy, either. Among the subjects explored are death, cancer and alcoholic parents. One story hints uncomfortably at rape, but the character doesn’t acknowledge it directly, merely referring to ‘the memory of myself kicking like a cat’. Bennett Daylight’s writing is at its best when it’s understated and deadpan: ‘I hate Judy’s first boyfriend, as expected’ or ‘London was the only place I had been where you were offered chips with Chinese food’. The characters often look back on their teenage experiences from adult perspectives, but it’s clear they have forgotten none of their former struggles. The act of looking back can be spiteful as well as nostalgic. Tasha, a reoccurring character, is hard to stomach, but her friendship with Judy is convincing in its intensity and shallowness. Six Bedrooms is a reminder of the desperate unhappiness—and passionate happiness—that often accompanies adolescence, and may trigger a painful, squalid memory or two in its readers.
Hilary Simmons is a former assistant editor at Books+Publishing and a freelance reviewer and journalist