Exercises in Control by Annabel Banks

The everyday become unsettling in these darkly funny short stories about control

Book Review by Rebecca Wojturska | 18 Feb 2020
  • Exercises in Control
Book title: Exercises in Control
Author: Annabel Banks

In this collection of short stories, Annabel Banks takes the reader through twelve tales that explore a very human preoccupation with control. In one story, a student becomes obsessed with Newton’s theory of colour and, in another, a cleaner discovers a dark secret in the office. In the collection’s titular tale, we see a station guard’s life choices determined by a coin and in an alternative story, a woman refuses to leave a crevice she has crawled into. 

The stories vary in length and tone, yet Banks’ voice is consistent in its strength throughout. The imagery in each tale is vivid, filling in the narrative gaps left by the prose, and ultimately leaving a disquieting feeling spread across the pages. There is often unspoken violence (although there is explicit animal cruelty in the titular story) and there is more to each story than what is explicitly stated. It feels like there are multiple potential meanings to be explored within, making Exercises in Control perfect for a book group.

Often weird and sometimes funny, this debut collection ultimately scratches the surface of the everyday and ordinary, to reveal dark and unsettling creatures crawling beneath. 

Influx Press, 20 Feb, £7.99