Singing my sister down and other stories by Margo Lanagan

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Allen and Unwin, 2017. ISBN 9781760295134
(Age: 14+) Recommended. The first line of this book reads 'We all went down to the tar pit, with mats to spread our weight', and from there I was hauntingly hooked. The first story Singing my sister down was my favourite, as the depiction of Ik's tar-pit death was so beautifully written; dark and emotional; and I could almost see the scene in front of me.
The following 12 stories continue with dark depictions of rituals, violence or gender and all have a deep seeded theme of death. Some of them I found quite confronting, as Margo Lanagan writes in a way that brought visual representation easily, and evoked strong emotion or loyalty towards the characters. She also brings in familiar concepts to keep readers hooked as in A good heart which deals with life's 'what ifs' or Winkie where a mother's intuition is highlighted.
In many of the stories you can also find links to popular fairytales, such as Not all ogre which shares similarities with Sleeping Beauty and the slightly disturbing Winkie with a fair resemblance to the song Wee Willy Winky who runs through the town in his night gown, just as in the story.
Many readers may not usually like short fiction, but they should at least give this book a try. Each story has depth and can leave you confronted, surprised or intrigued.
This strange yet compelling group of stories is targeted to those in the young adult age group, and I feel best suited to readers from at least 14 years of age due to the complex set of themes and topics brought forward in this book. Some of the stories are slow to start, however persistence is often rewarded. These stories may also lead to interesting dinner table conversation!
Lauren Fountain