I read this story when it was the opener in Nicholas Royle’s very first Best British Short Stories anthology and I was absolutely transfixed. Rose can be quite a tricky writer to get your head around sometimes, but this is one of his more approachable stories.
‘Flora’ is the story of the odd and frankly unhealthy obsession that develops when an older man invites a young female botany student to use his library and then his garden to work in. He begins to watch her, observing how she dresses and speculating on what might be going on with the young man who accompanies her from time to time. After a while, he digs out his old Zeiss birdwatching binoculars and if this were a McEwan story, you feel it might go down a rather unpleasant path. But then, just before the end, Rose pulls off the most elegant ninety-degree turn that takes the story in a completely different direction and you wonder who was really watching whom.
I believe Rose is still around, despite the title of his collection, but he doesn’t seem to be writing any more, which is a pity. I wish there were more David Rose stories around.
First published in The London Magazine, April/May 2010 and collected in Best British Short Stories 2011, Salt, 2012, and Posthumous Stories, Salt 2013