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Nisrine Tracey’s “Cosy Rambles” Reviewed

The two words shouldn’t really fit together. Rambles is the casual outdoors, the aimless wander, the somewhere that is nowhere, and Cosy, the warm and secure indoors, the familial, but there is something that connects them and that would be the comfort in honest pleasures. Comfort in honest pleasures leading to God and his teaching is at the heart of the stories here. If this sounds heavy, “Cosy Rambles” by Nisrine Tracey isn’t heavy at all, it is the short story as a soufflé, light as a feather and yet with a gravity that is all charm.

Nisrine Tracey, my niece, is the latest in a long line of English eccentrics who see the world through a perpendicular angle to those around them, think Jerome K. Jerome, Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, the John Lennon of “A Spaniard In The Works” added to the England hidden in the Sherwood forest of time, and here think of the Brontes, the Jane Austins and, er Dorothy Parker, add the New Testament for morals and the Old Testament for parables, and you are nearly there. There is also the x factor, Tracey’s skill as a writer who excels at the 1000 words story that put it together, along with a wonderful eye for detail in stories where she will just stop and observe.

I’ve been reading Nisrine for years and a fan from the start but her skills are especially sharp in this collection of poems and stories, and pictures, taken by Tracey herself. The pictures are not personifications of the pieces, they are evocations. On the back to back “Leaves In Autumn” and “Spring Is On The Way”, the former has a townhouse and trees with a painterly eye of greens, browns, whites and specs of blue, the latter is black and white with a single blackbird (robin?) on a tree and it seems to belie the hope that spring has already sprung: it is still waiting and yet you can see the promise. It is very effective, it adds dimension on spritely four and three paragraph sketches.

It points to Tracey the observer and this is clearer on her masterpieces here. “Joe Christmas” is a retelling of “A Christmas Carol” as done by a serious editor, the tale cut to its bare bones so it stands out in sharp relief and so its moral is inescapable, “Ode To Stockport” is Nisrine giving her heart to Manchester’s little sister, it is a descriptive wonder, succinct and smart, and loving, and it is where Nisrine finds the timelessness in time gone by: “I love the fabulous architecture; the Victorian and Georgian buildings dotted about, some deliciously derelict, others still in use… And I love how, though it’s still running, you can trace the medieval feel in the air.” “A Walk In The Rain” is her best case for Christianity and the way home and how the good will out through God: it is a parable of spiritual renewal.

There is such a playful spirit at work and whenever I speak with Nisrine she is just as playful in person, we make each other laugh, and on story after story her cheerfulness, her sweet nature and joy in words, is a beacon of hoping whether ratting out the gossips, dreaming of a past love, or mooning over an old cottage. The stories are filled with eternities of hope. Perhaps the best story in “Cosy Rambles” is “An Early Walk”, as great a piece of misdirection as Agatha Christie, though for different reasons; it opens as an extended act of woolgathering: on a freezing cold morning she takes the Pekingese she is dogsitting on a walk in her pale-pink fleeced pajamas and dark, grubby woolen coat and tears after the dog, “No! Not that way! It’s all downhill! Oh you are a nuisance! If I break my neck…” I won’t give it away but Nisrine certainly pays off her pretty in pink story.

Tracey claims she has written a collection to be dipped in and you can do that, but if you binge what emerges is a unique vision of the world. One the wise might embrace, a world in which both good and evil are repaid in kind and God presides over all.

Is this review nepotism? I guess, but trust me on this one. Over here it is available on Amazon (here), invest in something that proves how life is worth living.

Grade: A

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