Years (at least thirty, at a guess) after graduating, Attila is a successful doctor with an international reputation. During a spell in London as a visiting consultant, he hears the name of Rosie, an old flame he hasn’t seen since his university days. Discovering that she has taken early retirement, Attila decides to look Rosie up; but, on arriving at her old hometown of Haywards Heath, he finds that the woman he knew has been taken by early-onset dementia.
Only two stories into the shortlist, and already I disagree with the judges. Forna leaves the events of her plot to speak for themselves, and I find the clean understatement of her telling more affecting than Constantine’s denser treatment of his theme. In addition to the portrait of Attila’s witnessing what has happened to Rosie, there’s the elegance of having Haywards Heath represent both Attila’s success (the town’s name was always difficult for Rosie’s overseas friends to pronounce, but now Attila says it perfectly) and Rosie’s decline (any success she had in her career has gone with the arrival of her illness, and she has returned home). In all, this is a very nicely realised piece.