2015, 275 p.
And so here I am again, having finished a book of short stories, and quite at a loss to know how to review them. It’s certainly a very accomplished selection and there wasn’t a single story where I turned the page only to wonder ‘what was THAT all about?’ when the story had unexpectedly ended. These are all well-shaped stories, with a sense of wholeness in the small slice-of-life that is their focus. Several of them have a rather old-fashioned, parable-like, ‘once-upon-a-time’ narrative tone which I liked.
My favourite ones? The opening story ‘Exotic Animal Medicine’ is excellent, jumping between a young vet’s treatment of an animal in her care, and an excruciating present-time car-crash and giving comfort to an injured man. I very much enjoyed ‘Unnecessary Gifts’ which had a similar slow-motion disaster as two brothers go missing in a deserted shopping centre at Chrismas time, and ‘The Movie People’ where a township is changed by the experience of having a movie set move in, and then move on. ‘Violet, Violet’ reminded me of O. Henry. In fact, there’s not a single weak story here, and as I flip through I think – “oh yes, that one was good too..and that one…and that one.”
And this is only McFarlane’s first book of short stories? And she has only had one (very well-received) novel? What pleasures await us….
I have posted this review in the Australian Women Writers Challenge.