The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night, Jen Campbell – Book review

Hello humans! I’m back with another short story compilation review! This book is one that I’ve had on my TBR for a shamefully long time. Something happened and this just fell through the cracks and into 2018! But I finally read it after seeing the physical book peeking at me through the Blackwell’s shop window. The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is certainly…interesting.

Goodreads Summary:

‘These days, you can find anything you need at the click of a button.
That’s why I bought her heart online.’

Spirits in jam jars, mini-apocalypses, animal hearts and side shows.
A girl runs a coffin hotel on a remote island.
A boy is worried his sister has two souls.
A couple are rewriting the history of the world.
And mermaids are on display at the local aquarium.

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is a collection of twelve haunting stories; modern fairy tales brimming with magic, outsiders and lost souls.

Find The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night on Goodreads

I hesitate to call these short stories. They are more like extended poems which have some prose elements to them. In some of the stories, my favourite example being the first story, where animal hearts can be put into humans, this works really well and gives them an eerie fairytale quality. In others, it frustrated me no end. I was sat on the bus resisting the urge to shout ‘GET TO THE POINT’ at my Kindle.

The elements of these stories are so creative and thought-provoking, they show the world in a kaleidoscopic, skewed kind of way. But if you’re so caught up in abstract metaphors that you don’t have time to think about why the story is clever then what’s the point?

But I am by no means all doom and gloom about this book. This tone doesn’t always agree with me, but perhaps I was wrong to read all these stories in one go. The medium would suggest taking a break between them and I think if you read them in that way you would enjoy them a lot more.

There are some difficult issues wrapped up in these stories, much like in classic fairytales. In this case, these stories deal with the issue of autonomy and a woman’s right to her own body (and her heart). There’s also some implied sexual assault/rape in one of the stories so content warning for you if that’s something you don’t want to read about.

Of all the short story compilations I’ve read, I’ll confess this wasn’t one of my favourites. Having said that, I think that is a matter of personal taste, if you like the tone of these stories and you want to read it then I think that’s wonderful. I also think the core of these stories is solid, and the themes they explore are important and interesting.

My rating: 3/5 stars

I received a digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.




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