Today was marked on the calendar as an official slob day. It involved chocolate, cheese, log burners and books. It did not, however, contain the writing of a book review.
That was until I cracked open the Christmas Stack…
and dived into Salt Slow by Julia Armfield.
This collection of short stories has been on my radar for a while, having earned a well respected and learned following on Bookish Twitter. I suspected I was in for a treat but flipping heck! Off blew my festive socks and then some!
This is one of those rare and beautiful things, a collection of short stories with no weak link. Undoubtedly every reader will have their favourites but I defy anyone to identify a short which falls short of the others.
A debut collection…and a short pause here to say I am still digesting that fact…such an accomplished collection for a debut seems incredible…but it also means more to come…
But, yes, a debut collection it is and one woven together with a number of powerful and gothic themes.
The inside blurb highlights the exploration of bodies, the exploration and boundary pushing portrayal of the human form. In each story the physical and emotional elements of human nature are moulded in a mythical form, each reflecting the other.
Each story depicts the physical within a cloak of magical realism, taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary with twists and turns along the way,
But for this reader the immediate and most compelling theme was that of the power of women. Throughout each story we feel the power of women; women of all ages and sexualities are portrayed, all coming to terms with their own beings and bodies and enhancing the power they possess.
There is a sense within each story of discovery, of women pushing beyond the limitations that the society strives to place upon them. From an ultimate late blooming and sexual awakening found in the dark Mantis, to the modern day Gorgon heroine of Granite, Armfield has created a cast of confident and edgy females, casting off their shackles and radiating a dark and powerful sense of being.
For each reader there will be favourite fable, I am not even going to try and predict yours. I repeat my assertion that this volume is strong from beginning to end, but a girl is allowed a preference and mine lies with the haunting Stop Your Women’s Ears With Wax.
It is the story exploring the collective power of women; a girl band who entrance and entrap their female followers to unprecedented levels of dedication, desire and ultimately violence. Dark and with more than a hint of witchcraft, it breaks taboos and again pushes boundaries.
There is much more to say about this book, so much more to be discovered, but it’s a discovery that needs to savoured.
My hope is that I have opened the door on this mystical world and given you a glimpse of the brilliance inside. If you have time to squeeze in one more read this year, give Salt Slow a go.