Review Blog

Mar 21 2011

Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2011. ISBN 9781742374789.
Short stories. Highly recommended. Ten new short stories from Margo Lanagan, collected together in one volume, will have people absolutely delighted. The originality and subtlety of this author's work is to be marveled at and her previous collections, Black juice, Red Spike and ahe book, Tender Morsels, will ensure a willing audience for this new collection.
From Ferryman to An honest day's work, each story brings with it a fresh and novel approach, one which will be the cause of much discussion and rereading. Ferryman uses the stories of old, the oarsman taking the dead across the River Styx to what lies beyond. A rich and unusual story develops, of the ferryman and his dutiful daughter, coming down to give him his lunch, singing as she descends the steps, their idle, familiar chatter contrasting with the bodies of the dead, who, zombie like, are queued up waiting for their last trip. While Into the clouds on high, we see a young woman, letting go of her family, her husband and two children, as she disappears to help others unseen. Where she has gone, no one knows, but she shimmers, hovering in the air, spreading a warmth to those around her. And the enigmatic The point of roses, had me rereading immediately, trying to find the clues hidden in the wonderful prose, of what and where this may have taken place.
Each story builds a setting at once known and unknown, characters brought to life with a few sprays of words, a story built seemingly from air, but always with a central core of tension, of not knowing what is going on, of people looking for answers in a sea of doubt..
Singing my sister down, from the Black Juice collection, is a story I have had with me since first reading it. It has now been paired with another that will intrigue, baffle and enthrall, An honest day's work, redolent of the whaling industry as little men carve and cut up a torso hauled out from the sea. One of many in this fine collection.
Fran Knight

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