Admittedly you probably need to have a soft spot for the subject matter in the first place, but surely what makes Kathryn Scanlan’s Kick the Latch so eminently readable is the style in which it is written: a collection of flash fiction pieces which, when strung together, make a coherent narrative. If there are joins between consecutive episodes (and in most cases there are) it’s as if Scanlan is leaving them to the reader to fill-in, as if she can’t be bothered with the trivia of providing the description to link one to the next.
In terms of reading, it’s also satisfying to be turning pages at a rate of knots, the sense of progress also serving to drive you on. At less than 170 pages and with so much white space, you could read the whole in a single sitting.
If the novel reads more like a memoir that’s not surprising given that the source is a series of interviews with a genuine racehorse trainer Scanlan has then taken and fictionalised. Yet even having done so, in many of these little episodes the feeling of truth blazes through; you are never very far from the seamier side of lower grade US horse racing.
Note: Having said all of that, when thinking about the book I keep coming back to the format, this almost Polaroid-like way of telling a story. Very ‘Instagram’. Is there something there I could adopt in my own work, I wonder? And I’ll be reading Max Porter’s Shy soon, and having flicked through his book, he has also clearly taken some liberties with traditional form. Other people are doing similar things with poetry, and there seems to be not only an ever-greater blurring of the lines between them, but more importantly – for me at least – a slide toward some kind of ‘hybrid’ style.