A wonderful collection of short stories from the doyenne of the form.
The Laughing Academy is as witty, black and compelling as anything Shena Mackay has written. From antiques fayres to Cloud-Cuckoo-Land, geriatric wards to Crystal Palace, this collection offers a journey around the bizarre yet familiar characters and settings that Mackay has made her own. There are Roy and Muriel Rowley, the fun-running charity-junkies who give blood by the gallon (offending their daughter's religious principles); we meet Gerald Creedy who only loves three beings - his twin brother, Harold, and his two tortoises, Percy and Bysshe - and the mysterious lodger Madame Alphonsine who has the strange powers to make things (including tortoises) disappear; and then there is the rather arrogant bestselling novelist who gives a reading at a women's bookshop only to find, to her horror, that two of her old schoolfriends are in the audience.
Shena Mackay was born in Edinburgh in 1944. Her writing career began when she won a prize for a poem written when she was fourteen. Two novellas, Dust Falls on Eugene Schlumberger and Toddler on the Run were published before she was twenty. Redhill Rococo won the 1987 Fawcett Prize, Dunedin won a 1994 Scottish Arts Council Book Award, The Orchard on Fire was shortlisted for the 1996 Booker Prize and, in 2003, Heligoland was shortlisted for both the Orange Prize and Whitbread Novel Award. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and lives in Southampton.