First Impressions

Title: First Impressions
Author: Josephine Myles
Cover Artist: Lou Harper
Publisher: self
Buy Link: Buy Link First Impressions
Genre: Contemporary
Length: 6100 words
Rating: 5 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Cryselle

 Review Summary: Funny and charming short, where a few words convey a great deal.

Blurb

When ugly socks attract.

Surly artist Jez just can’t help staring at the brightly colored socks of the businessman who sits opposite him on the train every day. He weaves a whole history for the mysterious stranger in a vain attempt to stave off his attraction, but it only ends up feeding his bizarre obsession. Then one hot morning, Jez finally snaps and starts sketching…

 

Review

My first impression of this story involved cleaning coffee off the keyboard, because that blurb is so damned catchy.

Jez sits across the aisle of the train from a suit who’s only apparent non-conformity is owning an enormous collection of garish socks — he’s always got his head in a stack of papers. Making up stories about this man becomes nearly a full time occupation — half the story goes by before Jez gets up the courage to approach, done in a very cute and artist’s way.

Then once they meet, all those stories, beautifully crafted though they are, come apart to reveal truth after small beautiful truth. Being wrong has never been so right.

The original sidesplitter reaction doesn’t carry into the story, it’s more of a constant low level amusement, which is harder to sustain, I think. Jez knows he’s obsessing, fights the obsessing, and then enjoys his obsessing, and then—OMG has to find out the reality of Steve. The reality is wonderful. Nothing at all like his fevered imaginings, and the grinding of Jez’ brain as he processes his misconceptions is sweet and funny.

I had read this story when it came out originally, and it stands up to further readings. It was the first I’d encountered from Josephine Myles, whose language is beautiful, descriptive without being dry, and economical. She gets a lot of nuance into every phrase. Just look at this:

He probably had one of those old-fashioned wardrobes with labeled shelves for shirts, vests and sundries, and a little container on the back of the door for cuff links, just like Granddad used to have. He’d come from the kind of family where you learned how to dress properly and knew your way around a formal dinner service before you were out of your nappies. My school had been full of them, and they always knew how to put you in your place when you were there on a scholarship.

That is a huge amount of information in a little space—we now have a very good idea of Jez’s place in society, Steve’s place, or what Jez thinks it is, something about Jez’ family, and a lot about what Jez thinks about other people, his childhood, and his resentments. All from wondering where Steve keeps his socks.

Just in case you wondered, everything that happens once Jez stops drawing is as good or better — you can feel the breeze in your hair from the whoosh of him falling in love.

There are further Steve and Jez stories available through the author’s website, and all are worth reading. 5 stars

12 comments

  • Great cover and great contents. I’d read “Barging In” and “Boats in the Night,” so the author’s name, as well as the cover caught my eye. Your review pushed me not to back-burner this sweet, quirky, very tasty story. I also read “Fuzzy” (First Impressions #2) on the author’s website, and will order the third story. Thanks.

    Reply
  • Thanks for the review, Cryselle 🙂 I really liked Josephine’s “Barging In” and “Boats in the Night” so I’ll be sure to pick this one up and to check out her site for the free reads and her other upcoming work!

    Reply
  • Sounds interesting, not an author I’ve heard of before. I love discovering authors with good writing styles, so many these days seem barely adequate.

    Reply
  • I really enjoyed “Barging In” so will have to check this story out also. I like how you pointed out that an author can convey so much background/story with a few brief words…Thanks for bringing this one to my attention!

    Reply
    • I’ve heard authors complain that showing takes so much longer than telling, but they should look at that example for how to do a lot with a little.

      Reply
      • Those authors should not be calling themselves writers if they can’t “show” rather than tell. There’s nothing I hate more (OK too much sex is up there :)) than having an author tell me what’s going on in her book because she’s too lazy to do the work.

        Reply

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