Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan

(9.0/10)

Book of the Year 2011 (see all)

Yellowcake brings together ten short stories from Australian writer Margo Lanagan, the winner of many prizes, including four World Fantasy Awards.

In stories ranging from fantasy and fairy tale to horror and stark reality, the people in Lanagan's tales face trials, temptations and degradations. They swoon and suffer and even kill for love. In a variety of dangerous worlds, they seek the solace and strength that comes from family and belonging.

In each of these short stories, the reader is immediately present in that world. It’s as if you just caught a snippet of the film of someone’s life. In some cases, it’s more like you took their place.

And what worlds they are. There’s Biblical and Classical mythology made real; the realm of fairy stories taken with eerie seriousness and a besieged city to mention only a few. At times the writing can be deceptively simple, The Point of Roses for example, yet what is portrayed is extraordinary and engaging.

In others, there is a lusciousness in her prose which is well worth savouring – try A Fine Magic for that. There’s certainly no ‘sameyness’ about this eclectic spread of stories. They will definitely keep your imagination on her toes. One in particular [I won’t give spoilers] has an extraordinary point-of-view for part of the narrative.

I would highly recommend Yellowcake for confident readers from their teens upwards. They should enjoy stories that take the reader to far-from-ordinary places to experience strange events. Some of the events might be darkly humorous, like Into the Clouds, others such as An Honest Day’s Work maybe more challenging – but never dull. Definitely not suitable for those wanting an easy read full of stereotypes.

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