The Dollmaker by Nina Allan

A modern gothic inspired by, amongst other things, a poem, ‘The Dwarf’, written by Matthaus von Collin and set to music by Schubert in Vienna in the early 1800s, the main character of The Dollmaker, Andrew is of short stature and his love of dolls not only provides him with a career but puts him in the way of another doll collector, Bramber, who is particularly interested in the dolls made by Ewa Chaplin, a woman who also wrote short stories that explore an uncanny fascination with dolls and dwarfs. Continue reading

My Life As A Rat by Joyce Carol Oates

It wasn’t until I began reading My Life as a Rat that I remembered I hadn’t taken to Oates’ previous novel, Hazards of Time Travel. I had that sinking feeling that perhaps this novel would fail to capture my imagination too, but in fact what I uncovered was a character, Vi’let Rue, the youngest in a Irish-Catholic American family, that really did stay with me. It reminded me of something I read a long time ago about Oates’ method of writing. Though I can’t find the reference to it now (this is my disclaimer here), I remember her saying that certain stories came from a character and wrote themselves without planning. She was talking about short stories, but still, there is this feeling, as you read her work, of discovery; that the story literally unfolds in the writing. She finds the character and they tell her their story. Continue reading

You Will Be Safe Here by Damian Barr

You Will Be Safe Here is an exceedingly powerful book with a narrative that weaves and twists in exciting ways. It might be tempting to say that the book is really about one person, Willem, a young boy sent to a camp in the outback where he can be reeducated into behaving in ways white South African Boer society would like, but in actuality the novel is threaded with multiple stories and perspectives. Continue reading