#BookReview: Change the Ending (curated) by Dawn Reeves

Change the EndingWhat would the world look like if care home workers were paid a decent wage? What would the world look like if teachers refused to play the work-till-you-drop game? What would the world look like if every cog in the public services machine was given a place that fit and enough oil to keep it spinning? These are some of the questions to which Change the Ending offers answers.

In The Guardian, on this year’s National Flash-Fiction Day, writer and former local authority director Dawn Reeves launched a creative writing project. The aim of said project was to produce a flash-fiction collection about the future of local government written by the people who care about it, and at the start of October, the collection was launched and Dawn kindly sent me a free copy to review.

Many of the stories in this book resonated deeply with me. Instead of the usual narratives that tell us what’s wrong with the education system, local councils and communities, this book is full of dreams of a future in which workers aren’t bound by red tape, in which the vulnerable are given the help they need, and in which small acts of generosity, kindness and self-sacrifice have a positive impact on the lives of others. While not every story was to my taste in terms of style, the collection as a whole has left me hopeful and more respectful. If these dreamers are the people working in and running the public sector, the country might not be going to hell in a handcart after all.

The stories in this book seem to fall into two categories: those that give us a glimpse into the lives of individuals, and those that give us an overview of the system. For me, it was the former group that worked best. Most of these tales are snap-shots of the positive impact that a well-run and people-focused public sector can have on lives, and the effects of communities actually being communities. While there were some uplifting and encouraging stories in the second group, my ignorance of the inner-workings of public services was a bit of a barrier to my understanding the significance of what I was being told.

Of the 42 flash-fictions in the collection, my three favourites were Enough (the story of a secondary school teacher whose decision to look after herself has knock on effects for her students), Instagram Sam (the story of someone who decides to reap the benefits that paying taxes can bring) and The Interview (an ending far happier than it might otherwise have been).

I found this an engaging and inspiring collection. Congratulations to all who were involved in its creation! I hope these dreams spark conversations that really will lead to the ending being changed.

Change the Ending: flash fiction about the future of public life is published by Shared Press and available in paperback and as an e-book.

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