In Australia, the slang expression ‘woop woop’ can be used to describe ‘the middle of nowhere’. However, each of these twenty-four distinctive stories took me on a journey which always ended up somewhere, even if that final destination wasn’t quite where I’d imagined it would be and, in a nutshell, that captures for me much of the magic of Eugen Bacon’s awesome storytelling.
As always, I found that her writing defies being shoe-horned into any narrow genre, instead it encompasses elements of many, weaving them together in a range of speculative ways to create nuanced yet vivid word-pictures, images which are so much more than the sum of their constituent parts. Within this collection you’ll find shape-shifting characters, a re-imagining of ancestral stories from different cultures, time-travel, science fiction, astrology, vampiric characters, the supernatural, explorations of identity, race and gender – in fact I’m left wondering whether there’s any genre she hasn’t managed to speculatively incorporate into her lyrical story-telling.
Some of these stories are chilling, some disturbing, some poignant, some erotic, some sensuous, some humorous, with many incorporating a number of these elements. However, common to each story is the sense of passion which percolates through them, like the words through a stick of seaside rock. This is sometimes quietly gentle, sometimes explosive in its intensity, but is always conveyed using eloquent, poetic language which is a joy to read. In her reflections on love, loss and grief I find that there is an empathetic universality to her writing, something which transcends race, gender, ancestry, identity, yet without in any way diminishing the distinctive importance of each.
There was never a moment when I didn’t feel engrossed in these stories and think that the reason for this is because the richness of Eugen Bacon’s prose reflects an impression that she writes from the heart, thus creating a feeling of intimacy which immediately draws her readers into the various worlds she has created for her charismatic characters. I love her epigraph – For the stories we yearn to tell, the diversity of our voices. I am many, betwixt, a sum of cultures – as I feel that this captures so succinctly something which is central to the power of her evocative writing.
Although some of the stories in this wonderful collection are very short, none should be read quickly. The captivating quality of the writing, where not one word feels superfluous, made me want to take time, allow myself to become lost in the magic of each story. Then, at the end of each one, I found that I needed to stop and reflect on the journey which had transported me to a different place. So, at a very early stage in my reading, I made the decision to read just two or three each evening, as a ‘before bedtime treat’! I’d find it impossible to choose a favourite because each of the stories resonated in a unique way and, to do justice to them, I’d need to write twenty-four mini-reviews! Instead, what I will do is urge you to discover for yourself how special they are.
I can’t finish this review without mentioning Tricia Reeks’ striking and evocative cover design – the promise of a magical journey starts here!
With my thanks to Meerkat Press for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Review by Linda Hepworth
Personal read: 5*
Group read: 5*
Meerkat Press 1st December 2020