Treats by Lara Williams
'They go back to hers. She has an HDMI cable and Netflix and two thirds of a bottle of wine.' It's 2016 and love is still a battlefield, but its ordnance is strictly standard-issue. In her remarkable debut collection, Lara Williams unpicks the grave – and ludicrous – complexities of relationships as her characters navigate the romance-free frontline of the workaday routine. The backdrop: unrequited lust, the debris of depression, the conveyor efficiency of abortion.
The blackest comedy salves the overarching bleakness. The protagonist of Penguins soon discovers her HDMI cable is not quite distraction enough for a lover with an unexpected fetish. 'Do you want me to be the male penguin or the female one?' she asks. In Here's to You, a dancing cat with an inappropriate name accompanies a hellish dinner date.
Treats takes place in disquieting close-up: in bedrooms, offices, hospital wards. Williams' eye for the dramatic undertow energises these deftly drawn scenes, and the pages crackle. The treachery of the human body is a recurring theme and she finds poetry amid the flesh and bone. 'Her body felt… defiant in its rigidity. He suddenly saw its capacity for secrets,' muses Samuel in A Selfie as Big as the Ritz.
Treats is a dark and bitter joy, and how Williams documents 'the performance of love and the fire of it' confirms her as an authoritative and essential new voice.