Book Review of Annabel Banks' Exercises In Control by Marc Louis-Boyard for Slow Culture

Annabel Banks, Exercises In Control (February 2020) – BOOK REVIEW #5

Annabel Banks finally releases her first (and anticipated) collection of stories entitled Exercises In Control (Influx Press), and we loved it. 

Beyond passive recognition, these stories are still resonating in our mind after three readings. You should follow this path, because this book mattered to us more than we could expect. Here are our thoughts on this dangerously delicious selection.

Annabel Banks, Exercises In Control, our review:

Danger in the modern world

Danger and risk are central in the 12 short stories composing Exercises in Control. These themes and their multiple dimensions are beautifully treated. No monotony in sight, and no moral verticality either. Annabel Banks and her multiple mastered voices paint with relevance a somewhat schizophrenic society.

Also, the reader will especially appreciate the realism exposed. Indisputably, Annabel Banks is a writer of her time. With uncompromising expression, she writes without shortcuts, and her rich scenes are captivating and immersive. No distance = no boredom.

That being said, the raison d’être of Exercises In Control are the questions raised. Why do we need danger? Which responses do danger induce? Is danger always a choice, in reality or appearance? The fact that no definitive answers are given amplify these questions, resonating in the reader’s mind after putting the book down. Moreover, this is also to be understood as a display of Annabel Banks’ agreeable humility. Enriching and clever entertainment is the key to Banks’ open messages.

(He) had something metal in his hand, half-hidden up his  sleeve. 

I removed one of my earbuds. Snapped at him. ‘What we’ve got there?’.

He showed me. Long blades. Red handles. Scissors. I nodded and ran on without running away.

– Excerpt from “Free Body Diagram” 

The patchwork question

An early critic on Goodreads regretted the patchy feeling given by the book. There’s a patchy feeling, but this reality shouldn’t matter at all. Shorts stories are not necessarily meant to be read in one sitting. This patchy feeling is what makes Exercises In Control such a rich and relevant collection. 

This is 2020. Things change fast. Things are disconcerting. Feelings are confusing. Keeping up with life’s pace is a never ending challenge. This collection reflect this reality, and we wouldn’t have preferred it another way.

About Annabel Banks

Annabel Banks is an award-winning writer of poetry and prose. Her work can be found in such places as The Manchester Review, Litro, The Stockholm Review, Under the Radar and 3:AM, and was included in Eyewear’s Best New British & Irish Poets 2016.

 Her writing has received multiple nominations for the Pushcart Prize, with further nominations for the Queen’s Ferry Press Best Short Fictions, Blazevox’s Bettering American Poetry, Best News Poets [US] and the Derringer Awards and was longlisted for the Royal Academy/Pindrop Short Story Award. 

In 2019, her debut poetry collection, DTR (Broken Sleep) was nominated for the Forward Prize in two categories. She lives in London.

Annabel Banks, Exercises In Control. 

Influx Press. Available on February 20th 2020.
A lonely woman invites danger between tedious dates; a station guard plays a bloody game of heads-or-tails; an office cleaner sneaks into a forbidden room hiding grim secrets. 
Compelling and provocative, Annabel Banks’s debut short fiction collection draws deeply upon the human need to be in control — no matter how devastating the cost.

Website / Influx Press

Written by Marc Louis-Boyard for Slow Culture.

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