Fiction, March 2020

salt slow by Julia Armfield

salt slow by Julia Armfield. October 8, 2019.Flatiron Books, 195 p. ISBN: 9781250224774.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

In her electrifying debut, Julia Armfield explores women’s experiences in contemporary society, mapped through their bodies. As urban dwellers’ sleeps become disassociated from them, like Peter Pan’s shadow, a city turns insomniac. A teenager entering puberty finds her body transforming in ways very different than her classmates’. As a popular band gathers momentum, the fangirls following their tour turn into something monstrous. After their parents remarry, two step-sisters, one a girl and one a wolf, develop a dangerously close bond. And in an apocalyptic landscape, a pregnant woman begins to realize that the creature in her belly is not what she expected.

Blending elements of horror, science fiction, mythology, and feminism, salt slow is an utterly original collection of short stories that are sure to dazzle and shock, heralding the arrival of a daring new voice.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 1))
Armfield, winner of the White Review Short Story Prize, debuts a short-story collection that is both provocative and thrilling. A city is plagued with insomnia as Sleep disassociates itself and becomes its own ethereal entity. A teenager going through puberty finds her body changing in very unusual ways. A PhD student scavenges beautiful body parts of men to create the perfect male specimen for herself. A teenage girl gains a wolf as her new stepsister, and their bond grows dangerously close after the wolf-sister defends her from a persistent boy. As a woman in her thirties falls in love, her beloved becomes increasingly stiff and statuesque. A pregnant woman living during the time of the apocalypse realizes that the creature in her womb is not the child she expected. Armfield’s collection is exemplary as she pushes the limits of reality into beautifully eerie and unsettling worlds. She blends elements of horror, science fiction, mythology, and feminism in a way that is sure to shock and amaze readers of short fiction.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2019)
Between man-eating insects, a fashionably dressed sister-wolf, and a hypnotic feminist girl band, Armfield leaves no supernatural stone unturned in this dazzling debut. Writing with an elegant and often poetic style, British author Armfield conjures nine uncanny worlds in her first short story collection. And while her tales are notable for their concepts, they don’t lack in substance, either. Behind each of her stories lie undercurrents of loss, metamorphosis, and the ever shifting nature of human relationships. The horror of her work comes not only from the eerie occurrences on each page, but also in the relatability of her characters and the connections a reader can draw between their situations and the absurdity of everyday life. In “Formerly Feral,” for example, an adolescent girl copes with her parents’ divorce, her father’s remarriage, and her own shifting identity as she faces school bullies and bonds with the newest member of her family—a wolf. “Smack” also deals with divorce but depicts the breakup of a marriage through the eyes of a wife holding on to her disintegrating relationship by locking herself—sans nutrition or power —in the beach house she and her husband once shared. Perhaps most extraordinary is “The Great Awake,” which captures the sleeplessness of city life and the bitter, competitive spirit that accompanies it. In this strange world, plagued by the “removal of the sleep-state from the body,” shadelike “Sleeps” step out of their human hosts while the tired people left behind reshape society to take advantage of the mass insomnia. The title story, meanwhile, follows a couple navigating both the salt waters that have flooded the Earth and their unspoken feelings about their future. While a story or two ends abruptly or doesn’t delve quite as deeply as the most spectacular in the collection, each piece is filled with magic, insight, and a rare level of creativity that mark Armfield as a fresh new voice of magical realism. Artistic and perceptive, Armfield’s debut explores the ebbs and flows of human connection in lives touched by the bizarre.

About the Author

Julia Armfield is a fiction writer and occasional playwright with a Masters in Victorian Art and Literature from Royal Holloway University. Her work has been published in The White Review, Lighthouse, Analog Magazine, Neon Magazine and The Stockholm Review. She was commended in the Moth Short Story Prize 2017 and won the White Review Short Story Prize with two of the stories in this collection. She lives in London, where she is at work on her debut novel.

Her website is https://www.juliaarmfield.co.uk/

Around the Web

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