The Secret Life of the Panda by Nick Jackson
The Secret Life of the Panda (Chomu Press, December 12, 2011) is a collection of fourteen diverse short stories written by former librarian and current teacher, Nick Jackson (Visits to the Flea Circus).
The stories in The Secret Life of the Panda encompass diverse settings and situations: revolutionaries in South America, a heretical naturalist in 16th Century Holland, the private worlds of those growing up and growing old in contemporary Britain. But in all of them Nick Jackson captures with precise external imagery and inward observation moments of penetrating personal significance for the characters. This subtle but exotic collection forms a menagerie of the imagination, in which the reader encounters a variety of creatures from water fleas to oropendola birds, appearing as specimens to be anatomically examined or as totems enabling the characters to live those parts of themselves otherwise hidden.
A collection of short stories is always difficult to review (and I am also reliably informed that they are just as difficult to market). What is best thing to do? Review the fourteen stories individually or simply express a general opinion and highlight the stand-outs? I've opted for the latter.
And my general opinion of the collection is that all the stories contained within are well-written and engaging. My personal favourite was Shell Fire, the tale of an ageing school caretaker who finds himself surplus to requirements as the result of cost-cutting. Also worthy of mention are the titular The Secret Life of the Panda, which tells of a couple whose married life has settled into a comfortable but unexceptional existence until the woman discovers she is pregnant and tough decisions need to be made. Flaubert’s Poison cleverly portrays adolescent growing pains and awkwardness and The Island which - as was also the case in The Secret Life of the Panda - depicts marriage as a rather hollow existence where time needs to be constantly occupied to avoid confronting the reality of a life wasted. All the stories were good but those mentioned above were very good.
Each and every story had an element of interest for me but the thing that I found most difficult was the use of allegory, with the stories appearing to contain hidden meanings which I am afraid were often lost on me. My feelings are not as strong as JRR Tolkien who went on record as saying, "I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence" but I have never been particularly comfortable with it. I recently read Gene Wolfe's The Shadow of the Torturer, which was, like Jackson's work, beautifully written but I constantly felt that I missing something important. Maybe it is because I am a Northerner and like plain, blunt speech but I do find writing of this type can often leave me feeling alienated, as if it is for those more scholarly than myself. But I must stress that this did not stop me from enjoying the stories but did play a part in my inability to fully immerse myself in the collection. Maybe I am just a little to literal in my thoughts? I've often thought so.
So please don't let the above comment on allegory (if indeed that is what it is) put you off at all, I only wanted to mention my own reading experience and let prospective readers know that stories leave much open to interpretation. The Secret Life of the Panda is an often dark and occasionally depressing collection that is elegantly written and I recommend it for looking for a a collection of diverse, thoughtful and well-written short stories.
This The Secret Life of the Panda book review was written by Floresiensis
Have you read The Secret Life of the Panda?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
The Secret Life of the Panda reader reviews
7.5/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a reader review for The Secret Life of the Panda by Nick Jackson; it really helps other readers find that perfect next read. Kindly enter your name, country and review below and click the 'Submit your review' button to send.
More recommended reading in this genre
love songs for the shy and cynical
The first love song in the world, as composed by a pig in the Garden of Eden... The Devil, alarmed when his hobby of writing romantic fiction begins to upstage his day job....
Weird Shadows over Innsmouth
Respected horror anthologist Stephen Jones edits this collection of twelve stories by some of the worlds most prominent Lovecraftian authors, including H.P Lovecraft himsel...
Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters
Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters is a collection of 23 stories focused around the theme of strange creatures in the vein of Pacific Rim, Godzilla, Cloverfield, and more. The a...
George RR Martin
George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois have put together a towering anthology of specially-commissioned stories from the most stellar names in the genre, set in a number of ...
The Crimson Pact: Volume 3
The Crimson Pact Volume 3 features fifteen action-packed and frightening short stories, including, "That Which We Fear" by New York Times' bestselling author ...
The Crimson Pact: Volume 2
The dark fantasy and adventure continues as volume two mixes sequels from Gloria Weber, Sarah Kanning, Justin Swapp, and Isaac Bell with new stories from Lester Smith, Kath...
The Crimson Pact: Volume 1
The moment of the demons' defeat became their greatest victory. In the carnage after the last great battle against the demons, a doomed general discovers their hidden v...
The Shadow of the Torturer
Severian is a torturer, born to the guild and with an exceptionally promising career ahead of him... until he falls in love with one of his victims, a beautiful young noble...
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 8
From the inner realms of humanity to the far reaches of space, these are the science fiction and fantasy tales that are shaping the genre and the way we think about the fut...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: