Over the years I have had an on and off love affair with short story collections. A good short story is a hard thing to get right and for a long time it felt that every time I picked one up I was disappointed. I was starting to believe I was definitely a ‘novels kind of a gal’ when I stumbled across Madame Zero by Sarah Hall. Suddenly I was back on the hook, and fishing for great short stories once more.
So when David Borrowdale from Reflex Press sent me a copy of Witches Sail in Eggshells by Chloe Turner I was intrigued and excited.
Sitting down on a rare but beautiful sunny Cumbrian afternoon, I read the book from cover to cover, pausing only to scribble somewhat frantically in my review notebook. Reflecting the weather, this collection is a rare but beautiful thing.
In short I was blown away.
Writing successful short stories is hard, that’s why they are tricky to find. To write accomplished short stories you need to be a true wordsmith, to be able to make each word and phrase count, to be able to paint a picture with few brush strokes and build a character and a plot in paragraphs not pages.
Chloe Turner, has achieved this and more. Her short stories reflect a depth and maturity of writing which excited and enthralled me. Each individual story drew me in and held me for just the right about of time under it’s spell. Of course I had my favourite tales; Pianata, Lobster Scissors, and The Wetshod Child spring immediately to mind, but what I really admired was the way the collection worked together as one cohesive unit.
Therefore rather than reviewing individual stories I wanted to write about my feelings and reactions to the book as a collective work. There is no doubt that each story works as a successful individual piece of writing, but the book’s real charm lies in the fact that all these stories work so well together as a whole.
Each story enhances and compliments the other, impressively bringing together key themes and ideas that are woven through out the stories, exploring different angles, facets and characters.
A key strengths of this book is it’s reliance on and insightful portrayal of relationships. Chloe Turner is brilliantly observant and insightful in her creation of a microcosm of society, spanning all stories and reflecting all generations and genders. She has created intensely relatable and believable personalities, often thrown together in a web of unlikely bonds.
Turner has created a skilful reflection how relationships define us and equally how we choose to define them. Some of these relationships are tender, supportive, others chaotic and destructive, with a simple but terrible inevitability about them.
Turner has created a raft of symbotic interactions, both for good and evil, that reflect upon the choices we make in life. Here is a collection that looks at simple actions and how these affect others. And sometimes within these stories, making those choices is tricky, even crippling and life changing.
Running through the stories there is a natural rhythm, both in subject matter and style. Here is a tangible sense of balance, with more than a nod to folklore and even witchcraft. Many stories have there inspiration and basis in the world around us, in the sea, in the garden, in the natural world. There is a tangible link with the process of creating and creation and an exploration of the joy this brings and sometimes what it costs us.
As a collection of stories and a showcase of writing this is an incredible volume; one I am already shouting about to everyone I know, one I will return to time and again. I urge you to pick it up and discover each story for yourself. Your gems might be different to mine but watch as Witches Sail in Eggshells puts you under it’s own special spell.
Witches Sail in Eggshells by Chloe Turner is published by Reflex Press and can be purchased here.