Publisher: Harvill Secker
Publication Date: 4th October 2019
I feel a little bit like a stuck record when I say that I love short story collections. But as you all know this hasn’t always been a love for me. Especially anything that could be considered a little bit ‘strange’ or ‘out there’.
The regulars among you will also know that my reading tastes have changed massively since I started book blogging and a huge metamorphosis has occurred over the last couple of years. I have gone over to the dark side I suppose! I love anything odd or ‘off beat’. I adore the dark and twisted. I admire so many authors for their amazing imagination and story crafting abilities, and I use the word ‘crafting’ purposefully. Because I believe the short story is indeed a craft.
Kirsty Logan has in my opinion created an absolutely perfect collection of dark, vivid, insidiously creepy and outright horrifying tales to really drawn you in, mesmerise you and spit you back out again with a buzzing brain full of tumbling thoughts.
I started this collection one Thursday night, expecting to make my way through a few of the stories. What happened was I found myself so transfixed that I don’t think I moved for around 3 hours. I’m not sure I even breathed but I must have done because I’m here to tell the tale!
Things We Say In The Dark is split into 3 distinct parts, The House, The Child and The Past. Each part starts with a section split into four ‘fears’ First Fear, Second Fear, Third Fear and Fourth Fear (as if I needed to spell that out!). These are four relatively short quirky tales around the main theme. We then move on to the longer short stories. Interspersed throughout is a narrative of an author, telling the reader about her writing retreat in a remote Icelandic town, her own dark fears and struggles whilst isolated within the writing process.
I don’t like to talk about all the stories in a collection when I’m reviewing and I always find it difficult if I’m honest to review short story collections. I have to choose some favourites to talk about, some stand out stories that have stayed in my mind long after I’ve finished the book. However it is extra difficult with Things We Say In The Dark because more or less every story has been emblazoned on my brain!
Stand outs for me though are:
The Only Time I Think Of You Is All The Time in which a young woman is plagued by the ghost of a middle aged woman called Brigitte. Brigitte will not leave this woman alone and literally follows her everywhere. The only way she can get any peace is by completely submerging herself in an overgrown weed ridden pond at the bottom of the garden.
She’s just – there. Wherever I go, whatever I do. I walk down the street and I feel her toes stepping on the backs of my heels. I type emails and I feel her fingers on top of mine. I read a book and she bends the cover back so she can read it too. I get in the bath and see the water rise as she climbs in after me. I go to the toilet and she slides her fingers under the door, calling my name…
Half Sick Of Shadows in which a couple drive to a deserted and long abandoned theme park with their young daughter in the hopes of doing the absolute unthinkable. Something which no parent would ever even contemplate….
My Body Cannot Forget Your Body: First Fear in which a woman’s stomach begins to grow and her skin begins to stretch and tear. She has the doctors stitch her up countless times but she continues to grow something inside of her. When one day a finger bursts out of the hole and begins to scratch, she knows that no amount of stitching will keep it contained…..
My skin cannot stretch any more, and so it grows upwards into my body. I feel it’s elbows pressing hard against my spleen, it’s knees prodding at my kidneys, it’s eyes opening and closing on the inside of my collar bones. My heart still beats and my lungs still inflate, but only just…..
And also Second Fear:
Where women give birth to an array of fruit and vegetables from tiny pomegranate seeds to multiple lemons, to carrots and kumquats. However, the woman in this Fear is destined to give birth to something far more problematic…..
And Third Fear:
Where a woman who has just given birth and waits to meet her baby contemplating all of the horrors it could turn out to be…..
The nurse brings me a baby made of glass, tiny and perfect and smashable; a baby so tiny, so microscopic, that you need machines just to see; a baby with gills like tuna fish; a baby with feet sharpened to a stiletto point; a baby made of cat shit, a baby with eyes that run out of his head like egg yolk…..
In The World’s More Full Of Weeping Than You Can Understand, a young girl describes an innocent, lovely sounding day out at the seaside with her mother, with very sinister and dark footnotes…..
There are many many more stories I could wang on about but I feel you need to experience them for yourself!
These stories are based around female fears, the things that play on our minds in the night hours when the world is dark, quiet and still. The horror of the normal, the abnormal and the things we cannot let ourselves think about during the cold light of day.
These stories are an eclectic mix of contemporary tales and dark fairytales with a very distinct sense of creeping unease. Some are outright horrifying and will play on your mind long after you have closed the book.
As I said, I gulped this collection down in one dark and wet autumn evening, under a blanket in the candle light with the shadows playing around the room. I was absolutely transfixed. I just could not stop reading. I went to bed with a brain that was buzzing with the imagery and the energy that these stories had suffused me with.
Kirsty Logan is the queen of the short story for me. She has an awe inspiring imagination and I would love to have a chat with her about how she takes inspiration for her stories and weaves them into complete and utter magic.
This collection will stay firmly on my forever shelf. If you only buy one book in October to read at Halloween, make it this one and you won’t regret it!
I cannot recommend it highly enough and I am now off to re-read some of the stories.
Thank you so much as always to the publisher for my review copy.
See you all soon.
Amanda – Bookish Chat xx
*The quotations in this review are taken from the uncorrected proof.