Hair Side, Flesh Side
By: Helen Marshall
Format/Source: eBook; my copy
A child receives the body of Saint Lucia of Syracuse for her seventh birthday. A rebelling angel rewrites the Book of Judgement to protect the woman he loves. A young woman discovers the lost manuscript of Jane Austen written on the inside of her skin. A 747 populated by a dying pantheon makes the extraordinary journey to the beginning of the universe.
Lyrical and tender, quirky and cutting, Helen Marshall’s exceptional debut collection weaves the fantastic and the horrific alongside the touchingly human in fifteen modern parables about history, memory, and cost of creating art.
I read her second short story collection, Gifts for the One Who Comes After (review), when I won a eCopy from ChiZine Publications in October 2014. However I was really keen on picking up this first collection of hers after hearing so much about it, first through an interview I had with author Robert Shearman a few years ago (see post) and then from various tweets from ChiZine Publications.
I actually meant to read this slowly as I was reading a number of other books on the go at the time but I could not put this book down after a few stories. It’s quite a curious, chilling, and at times downright creepy collection of short stories. They have some bizarre or horrific or strange elements to them (and not all of them are outright) but they are very human stories touching on themes of relationships–fidelity, infidelity, love–memory, and loss. The stories are eerie yet poignant and I found myself really feeling for many of the characters and the situations they found themselves in.
This collection for the most part was pretty solid; there were maybe two or three stories that didn’t intrigue me as much as the others, but I wasn’t bored or hit with the compelling urge to skip to the next story, which is a good sign 😛 My favourite stories from this collection would have to be “Blessed”, “A Texture Like Velvet” (probably the creepiest of the whole collection) “The Old and the New”, “No Ghosts in London”, “Pieces of Broken Things”, “Lines of Affection”, and “The Art of Dying”.
I highly recommend this collection if you’re a reader of short fiction and into speculative fiction. The premises sound strange, but the emotions and situations that these characters are confronted with are definitely familiar. And did I mention her writing is absolutely wonderful? Her writing really brings the reader into the world of her stories…Anyway, I’m glad I got around to reading Hair Side, Flesh Side sooner rather than later! It was a great read.