It is well-documented on this blog that I lack a certain affinity for short story collections – they just aren’t my jam. Too often they leave me wanting more, and not in a ‘wow that was good, I could read 500 more of those’ kind of way, it’s more of a ‘is that it?’ kind of way. And full disclosure, I haven’t read a heap of short story collections, but I’ve read some critically acclaimed ones – I’ve tried Alice Munro, George Saunders and Karen Russell – and I just couldn’t get into them.
Well, I am pleased to announce that I have finally found a collection that I liked, nay loved. Maxine Beneba Clarke’s Foreign Soil was fantastic. Even though all of the stories are completely separate – separate stories, separate lives, separate countries – they felt connected in some way, so much so that going from one story straight into the next never left me feeling disjointed – it all felt natural and smooth.
The stories are grim and harsh at times, but Clarke is such a great writer and she treats her subjects with the utmost care and respect. The characters are super vivid and their stories are heart-breaking at times, funny at others, but always interesting. She doesn’t shy away from any of the harsh realities of modern life – the story about asylum seekers in the Villawood detention centre is particularly raw and gut-wrenching.
I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a diverse read – I give it 4.5 out of 5 girls trapped on the monkey bars (you’ll understand when you read it…)
Categories: Book life