The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell

Review published on September 2, 2017.

A dreamy, whimsical yet occasionally disturbing collection of short stories, The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night provides its reader with plenty to engage the imagination, from its opening tale of a man with an unhealthy obsession with hearts to the story of a company that offers its clients a coffin for the night. With its gothic weirdness and fascination with fairy tales, Jen Campbell’s debut collection echoes Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, inspiring wide-eyed grimaces throughout. Any readers who share Campbell’s interest in the darker side of traditional narratives would be well-advised to snap up a copy of this book.

The collection is extremely well-structured, with a mix of longer stories and much briefer tales neatly intermingled. I particularly enjoyed some of the shorter inclusions, like ‘Little Deaths’, which tells of a morbid town full of ghosts, and ‘Human Satellites’, in which Campbell’s writing really shines as she briefly, tantalisingly describes a mysterious planet seemingly composed of snippets of space and time from across the universe. The topics covered by each story are diverse and unusual, with plenty of mystery, surprises and ambiguity; for these reasons, I would recommend it as a book club read, as there’s much to be discussed in each story.

There are so many intriguing characters and situations to be enjoyed in The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night, as well as the economical yet gorgeous style in which they are written. Each story is unique, but there’s a satisfying thread running throughout that provides coherence rather than confusion. Jen Campbell is clearly a writer to watch.

Katy Goodwin-Bates 5/5

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell
Two Roads 9781473653535 hbk Nov 2017

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