New Zealand author Tony Chapelle’s first book features twenty-five short stories, all of which were highly acclaimed entries from local story competitions such as the Cambridge Autumn Festival and Central Districts NZSA Short Story Competition. Several of these stories have also been included in nationwide publications including Another 100 New Zealand Short Short Stories and the Sunday Star Times.
The title of the book is also that of a short story called “Original Sin”, which won a First Equal in the Central Districts NZSA Competition in 2009. In this story, Chapelle presents the theme of the relatively foreign experience of puberty principally through the character of a young boy named Jamie and his big sister Inez. The first line of the story cleverly encapsulates this difficult period of growth and understanding: “Did you fall?” The story’s references to the Christian doctrine of Original Sin and the downfall of humankind in the Garden of Eden evoke the concepts of morality and human errors, flaws and desires. These ideas are recurrent throughout Chapelle’s compilation.
Chapelle’s short stories portray the pains and elations of familial, marital, social and sexual relationships. His stories are obsessed with experience, personality, observation and recollection. “The Lesson” and “Because” are short stories that portray the effects of total war on foreign lands on individuals and families in New Zealand. “Dixit Dominus” conveys emotions of yearning and paternal concern. Other stories that share a similar focus on fatherhood include “The Penitent” and “Masterpiece”, both stories exploring familial memory. My favourite story of all was a very short yet profound one called “Roses”, a piece of writing evocative of the pastel hues of Impressionism. This two-page story depicts agony, passion and the fleetingness of beauty in a most Mansfield-esque manner.
Reading Chapelle’s diverse assemblage of captivating short stories was a pleasurable treat. To describe the whole collection with a mere string of adjectives won’t do. Simply read the book yourself, again and again.