The language is silky and seductive and as a reader I was drawn in, drifting about like a leaf in a stream taking in sights, sounds and feelings. Lucy Durneen leaves the door open to her mind and as the pages pass I’m looking out of her eyes focusing and feeling the world as she describes and experiences it.
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All three novels explore guilt and innocence, good and evil, and the individual versus the state or government, using changing tense and viewpoints. The grand conception is fairly ambitious, but Maiden handles it all smoothly and the stories read like ordinary thrillers. The binaries that charge these books are played with in all sorts of interesting ways as the characters swap positions, power matrices, emotional landscapes, and unravel the structures in which they work.
Always there’s a sense that the world is not quite fixed and that what we’re experiencing is illusory (so much smoke), and charged by scars, memories, hunger, and all that we’ve lost. The stories that make up So Much Smoke are powerful, not so much because of what happens, but because of the way they hint at how much lurks below the surface
On reading these stories, one is reminded of the paintings of Marc Chagall: a hermetic world of imagery, difficult to interpret, informed by rich folk traditions and personal experience. In Gnarled Bones, women are the principal (but by no means sole) targets of the past’s slings and arrows. In this regard, the opening story, ‘Mother of Mischief’, is the most interesting in the collection, casting retrospective light on its own ambiguous title and showing us how we can, after all, be the authors of our own entrapment.
Emily Eckart’s debut short story collection, is unique and outstanding first and foremost for her literary craftswomanship. In “The Beech Tree”, the first story in the collection, she skilfully uses the imagery of trees, fruit and flowers in showing an unhappy girl’s relationship with her grandmother. More than just a detail of setting, the tree symbolizes the love between Grandma and her late husband, which flourished, grew large and endured.
Dennis Must’s Going Dark is a succession of 17 short stories. Must’s writing is expressive, as he approaches the numerous stages of life we all share in the transition from youth to maturity to the inevitable death that awaits us all. The lives in these stories are unrelated, and yet very much the same. The work is at once a multilayered thought provoking psychological frolic in addition to being a deeply seated thoughtful work. Whatever the overview or leitmotif, each portrayal in this work ultimately goes dark as Must probes deep within the core of his intricate, complex characters.
The author’s descriptive passages of Paris are so powerful and illuminating that as Felix wanders through the City of Light it feels like we are right there beside him and when he stumbles his way into a romantic interlude with the beautiful waitress Senna, we can be thankful that the author allows us to turn away at the right moments. As his fumbling turns to manliness Felix begins to understand something about love and relationships and his attitude towards his father alters.
Kristel Thornell has roll-played Agatha’s creativity and expression to perfection and delivers an excellent discourse of the famous crime writers’ intercourse with her acquaintances. Flashbacks enrich the pages and regularly remind me of her once read autobiography. The method used was very inventive, for example while partaking a Turkish bath some memories of her childhood are released and I’m overjoyed to find ‘Auntie-Grannie,’ ‘Nursie’ and the ‘Gunman’ unexpectedly arrive.
An outstanding collection of short stories makes up this book of the Margaret River Short Story Competition for 2016. It is sponsored by Margaret River Press, who believe the ‘short story genre is greatly undervalued’, according to their website. The competition has been run since 2011, producing five published collections so far, with the 2017 competition having just recently closed for submissions.