Wednesday 20 April 2016

Weirdathon Mini Reviews

Back in March I took part in the Weirdathon hosted by Julianne of Outlandish Lit, and although I pretty much failed at posting about it I did have a lot of fun and read some great stuff I wouldn't have necessarily picked up ordinarily. I read three books during the event and liked them all, but given the lack of focus I've had on reviewing (or even sticking to reading just one thing at a time this month!) I thought I'd do a post of mini reviews of all the weird stuff I read!

The first book I picked up for the event was also the first book I was gifted by my secret sister this round. Diving Belles by Lucy Wood is a beautiful collection of short stories, mostly based on folklore and centred around the sea. A lot of the stories are also about loss and Lucy Wood's writing style is gorgeously surreal at times. I don't think there was a story in this collection that I didn't love. The title story, where an elderly woman goes down in a diving bell to try to find her husband who mysteriously vanished from their house 35 years earlier, in a flurry of seaweed, is fantastically eerie and magical realism at its best: pushing all the boundaries of what you believe to be real. Other stories include one told from the perspective of a house, an old woman who lives in a cave on the beach, and the ghost of a wrecker who turns up in a couple's house one day and won't leave. I really loved the way that the feeling of closeness to the sea permeated through each story. That uncertainty and continual change and possibility and the secrecy; the feeling of always being about to discover something fantastic or awful and always being on the edge of potential danger, was amazing. Weird, beautiful and haunting. Read immediately.

My second book was one that I thought would be weirder than it actually turned out to be. The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen has a really great premise - young girl lives on an island with her parents and about three other people and a dog. They are happy until the day Minou's mother disappears. The first line sets the story up for great things (I've misplaced the quote but it's about a dead boy) but overall I was disappointed. The story is told through the eyes of Minou, the daughter, who refuses to believe, as everyone else does, that her mother is dead. The book is pretty much a series of flashbacks prompted by her discovery of a dead boy on the beach.

Honestly I didn't like the method used to tell the story as I felt like the dead boy was only there to prompt the telling of the story that had taken place prior to the novel beginning in which case why not just tell that story? His presence made it possible for Minou and her father to talk about her mother, but I still didn't like it.


Also, the actual reason for her mother's disappearance is soooo mundane and utterly predictable. I liked some things about this book but I felt quite let down by it in the end. I didn't realise quite how much until I came to write this!

The third book I read was The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman, and this tiny book I really enjoyed! The narrator's wife is in a bank where there is a robbery, but instead of money the thief wants the things that holds the most sentimental value for each person. After the robbery the wife starts shrinking... The novella tells the stories of all the people in the bank on that day and all the strange and surreal things that happen to them. It's a gorgeous story which functions on many levels and it's so short it would be rude not to give it a go really!

I really enjoyed this event and would love to take part again, I'm hoping it'll become an annual thing! Maybe next year I can actually post during the event, you never know.

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