SHORT STORIES//The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night- Jen Campbell

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Sometimes, it’s necessary to judge a book by its cover- and this one is beautiful. The content inside is equally interesting, too.

I find short stories a bit of a mixed bag, really. I’m not sure I’ve ever properly got to grips with them as a form either as a reader or a writer and so I can often feel a bit unsatisfied with them once I’ve finished reading. The stories in this collection mae me wishing that some of them were fleshed out to novel size,which I take as a good sign (the first story, about a dysfunctional relationship in a dysfunctional society that sells hearts as commodities is one that fascinated me).

Each story has an element of fairy tales and magic, but not in the way that, say, Angela Carter did in The Bloody Chamber. That’s not to say that these stories aren’t dark- in some places they are- but that the author has a lighter, more colourful touch (I always envision The Bloody Chamber as being reds, blacks and dark, dark blues. The colours of this collection are reflected inthe more cheerful colours of its cover.)

For me, the standout story is the title story, in which a couple reflect on their relationship, only to suckerpunch the reader in the last lines. There’s also the chance to visit a ‘death hotel’ and all that entails (including a mansent there by his therapist) and a strange encounter in a kitchen between two strangers.

This is a collection that demonstrates an interesting mind at work and one that means I am pretty sure I will make a habit of reading everything that Jen Campbell ever writes.

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