Over the last four months there have been twenty reviews of short stories, either standing along or as part of a collection. Readers are still looking for bite-sized pieces of life to devour, which is great to see!
In the literary fiction genre, Sue of Whispering Gums penned a review of Romy Ash’s ‘The Basin’, published in an edition of Griffith Review themed ‘What is Australia For?’. The story was inspired by the man-made Lake Argyll in the Kimberleys, and is imbued with a tension between what is natural and what is artificial. As Sue writes, it’s ‘about the costs – personal and environmental – of mankind’s belief in its ability to control nature.’
WriteReaderly was inspired by Merlinda Bobis’ Fish-Hair Woman to pick up White Turtle, Merlinda’s collection of short stories. She found it ‘competent enough, interesting in terms of cultural awareness of the Philippines and a Filipina experience in Australia’, but wasn’t enamoured. I’ve also been prompted to add this collection to my reading list, having read and enjoyed Merlinda’s novel as well.
Lynette Washington reviewed a couple of stories from the Amanda Lohrey Selects series, published by Spineless Wonders. She loved ‘Danny Boy’ by Marian Matta, who ‘builds an aching suspense crafted carefully around a core of empathy and slowly reveals, with immaculate precision, the truth that is not so deeply hidden after all.’
There were several collections of speculative fiction stories canvassed, including Margo Lanagan’s Yellowcake. Lanagan’s mind, writes Heidi of Bunbury in the Stacks, ‘works in short stories’, and even her novel The Brides of Rollrock Island (or Sea Hearts), ‘was fractured into smaller narrative pieces, almost making it in itself a short story collection’. With this collection, Heidi ‘fell in love in ten pages, was horrified in 30, and felt no great loss when 20 were completely lost on me’. As a fellow Lanagan lover, I know exactly what she means.
Jason Nahrung reviewed the first short story collection of veteran speculative fiction writer Kim Wilkins, The Year of Ancient Ghosts. In Wilkins’ stories, Nahrung writes, ‘Character is queen … the fears and ambitions of the heroines pulling us through the realistically rendered worlds’. Sean the Bookonaut also wrote a passionate review of this collection, and was prompted to ask, ‘How often does a collection of novellas cause you to go and borrow every book you can by the author?’ High praise indeed! Sean also comments on the strength of the female characters, and warns readers to ‘have the tissues handy’ while reading the final story, ‘The Lark and the River’. Sean’s impression of this story – it ‘left me so immersed that I had to remind myself that it was fiction’ – had me adding the collection to my To Be Read pile.
Tsana reviewed a chapbook, To Spin a Darker Stair, which consisted of two stories by Faith Mudge and Catherynne M Valente. The first, ‘A Delicate Architecture’ is ‘surreal in the way that some fairytales are, but it’s lovely’ while the second, ‘The Oracle’s Tower’ gives voice ‘to a character marginalised in the traditional telling’ which ‘allows Mudge to put a very different spin on the tale’ – a darker one, by the sounds of Tsana’s review. She concludes that it’s ‘A very thin volume that punches above its weight in class’.
Romance titles were also reviewed, including a handful by Lauren at The Australian Bookshelf. ‘Bonjour Cherie’ was a ‘short and sweet read by Australian author Robin Thomas’. Lauren found it enjoyable, but the protagonist, who is obsessed with going to Paris, proved irritating with her lack of foresight. Viveka Portman’s ‘The Secret Diary of Lady Catherine Bexley’, by contrast, was a ‘quick, saucy read and one of the better erotica shorts that I’ve read thus far.’
What a variety of stories reviewed across these genres! I haven’t covered all of them here, so if you’d like some more recommendations, check out our listings at the short stories page from January to June, or July to December.
I’m Jessica White, a writer and researcher. I have a PhD from the University of London and have published two novels with Penguin, A Curious Intimacy (2007) and Entitlement (2012). My short stories have been published in Overland, Southerly, Island and the Review of Australian Fiction. You can find more information about me at my website. I’m also on Twitter @ladyredjess.