‘The High Places’ by Fiona McFarlane


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.


6 responses to “‘The High Places’ by Fiona McFarlane

  1. I don’t tend to read short stories but this is a collection I am defo buying and reading once my self-imposed ban is lifted. Am hearing so many good things about it. And I will re-try her novel as well. Did you read The Night Guest?

    • residentjudge

      No, I borrowed the Night Guest from the library but didn’t get round to reading it. I must look for it again. Have you subjected yourself to a self-imposed ban of reading to concentrate on your writing?

      • Goodness no, would never ban reading, but I set myself a challenge to only read books with an Indian theme this year, seemed like a good idea at the time but now am thinking it wasn’t. What it’s taught me is that reading challenges don’t make me happy.

  2. But I am trying to honour the challenge by not buying new fiction other than a couple of exceptions. (That was the original reason for the challenge; to not just buy all the new books when they come out, automatically. Got a bit ridiculous the last few years.)

    • residentjudge

      I tried to do that too- or at least, I decided to try and read a set number of books that I already have on my shelf.It has been a dismal failure, so far.

  3. Pingback: M is for Moriarty, McLeod and Maguire | Australian Women Writers Challenge Blog

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