I’ve had some issues with short story collections of late. They’re usually a mish-mash in quality, so despite there being over a dozen, I only really enjoy one or two. But here, I kind of got sucked up into every story.
Even if I look back as an overview, rather than by stories, characters really stand out: the woman who builds a lover out of paper because her husband is away on the rigs for so long; the man who binges on words.
The Broken West is the one that still stands out after completing the collection. Where many of the stories relied on magic or fantasy elements, this was gritty and startlingly real in comparison setting-wise. The story itself made me feel oddly unsettled, but I simply had to know how it ended. I always say, a story that makes you feel something – good or bad – is doing something right.
Grim, the book of fairytale re-tellings that I recently read was another instance of the stories falling flat – many ran too closely to the original tale to be interesting, others just didn’t seem right. Matryoshka twists Cinderella to show a servant girl win the Prince at a masquerade ball of sorts, but told through the eyes of an almost bratty Princess.
I always feel I should avoid doing a point-by-point breakdown of books like this, because I feel it ruins the surprise. But I really enjoyed it. The fact that the stories are so different is what makes it interesting. A boy with a tiger tail and a girl with antlers, a teen is dared to seek out Baba Yaga, a witch fables have warned her to stay away from, and she is nothing that those tales foretold.
There’s such a rich diversity in characters and settings, no two feel the same. Fearlessly dealing with adolescence, sexuality and love, there’s a lot of charm, edged with a certain frankness. And the style itself is such a nice change to what I usually read – there’s so much description, even the most basic of items has a literary charm surrounding it.
I hadn’t read any of the stories, though most are published elsewhere, so it was all new to me. And I really liked it. How nice it is to finally have time for books I want to read, and how much nicer it is for them to be worth it!
Pub: 15th Mar 2014 | Salt Publishing