03 May 2019

Review of A Lovely and Terrible Thing by Chris Womersley and thoughts on Short Story Collections

* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

I don't read many short story collections. However, when an advance copy of Chris Womersley's first collection of short stories arrived bringing promise of 'twenty macabre and deliciously enjoyable tales', I decided to give it a go.

The majority of the stories in A Lovely and Terrible Thing were told in first person, and included characters of both sexes and a variety of ages, family demographics and socio-economic situations. Living in Melbourne I enjoyed the references to my city within the stories and recognised many of the settings.

By far my favourite of the collection was The Deep End. It was just such a brilliant short story and everything I love about the genre. It was tense with a sense of foreboding and had a terrific surprise ending I did NOT see coming.

On the flip side though, Crying Wolf had such a devastating ending as to make me cross. The story was building to a climax and instead of giving the two main characters an other-worldly mind blowing ending, Womersley tears it away from the reader at the very last moment by way of a selfish act by one of the characters. 

Perhaps this was done in an effort to show how easily lost opportunities can plague our lives and how close we can be to life changing events without the slightest hint of their existence or magnitude. Either way, I felt thoroughly robbed by the ending.

The other stories in the collection didn't really illicit much of a reader response from me and felt middle of the road. 
Perhaps this means short story collections aren't my thing or I need to read more of them.

Out of interest, I had a look back at my reading history and identified that I've only read six short story collections to date. Not a good track record really.


I can see a definite pattern here, and that's the fact that I've followed some of my favourite fiction authors (eg. Stephen King) into their short story collections. I picked up the collection edited by Neil Gaiman as a 'taster' of sorts and read the Rushdie for University.

While I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of short story collections yet, I do have some on my TBR pile that I'm looking forward to:
  • Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology by Danielle Binks
  • The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories by Angela Carter
  • The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donoghue
  • The Brothers Grimm: 101 Fairy Tales by Jacob Grimm
  • The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
  • The Turning by Tim Winton
In summary, A lovely and Terrible Thing by Chris Womersley contained one outstanding short story, one infuriating one and eighteen others that were a solid read.

Do you enjoy short story collections? What would you recommend?

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!

P.S. Check out my review of City of Crows by Chris Womersley

Would you like to comment?

  1. I generally don’t read short story/ anthology collections, I think I read too fast to find them satisfying if that makes sense.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts

  2. Interesting Shelleyrae. I don't think I read to fast, but that the stories are over too soon for me. Long before I can become invested in the characters etc. Or perhaps I need to read them more often, to spice up my reading and exercise this part of my brain.


Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!