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Wild Gestures (Lucy Durneen, MidnightSun)

This is an intriguing collection of short stories where things are seldom what they seem and characters are preoccupied by their past actions. Shaped less by plot than by precise and evocative imagery, they are psychologically acute portraits of people dealing with grief or change. With titles such as ‘The Old Madness and the Sea’ and ‘Everything Beautiful is Far Away’, the ocean is a recurrent image, the ebb and flow of its tides mirroring the undertow of suppressed emotions. The stories can be bleakly funny; when one character’s heart freezes over, she compares the spread of ice with the spread of cancer, coolly remarking that both seem inevitable if you don’t heed the standard warnings. They can be unexpectedly chilling, too. In ‘Noli Me Tangere’, a young girl’s apparently spontaneous response to a local boy’s invitation while holidaying in Italy turns out to have a much more self-serving and sinister purpose. There is something vicious at the heart of these stories, something dark which unfurls and unsettles. In UK writer Lucy Durneen, MidnightSun has found someone who revels in the imaginative possibilities of language while simultaneously exploring its inability to adequately express what people mean. Distinguished by its measured yet speculative style, these stories will appeal to readers of Cate Kennedy and Mary Gaitskill.

Hilary Simmons is a former assistant editor at Books+Publishing and a freelance writer, copywriter and editor


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