This exciting collection, which takes the reader from English country roads to sweltering Greece and Australia, proves McFarlane has a knack for disconcerting her readerby Sian Norris / July 20, 2017 / Leave a comment
The High Places by Fiona McFarlane (Sceptre, £9.99)
Fiona McFarlane has followed up The Night Guest with a prize-winning short story collection that takes the reader from rainy English country roads and sweltering Greece, to her sun-soaked native Australian countryside and the seedy dog tracks of mid-century Sydney.
The collection explores secrets—secret feelings and performed identities, secret histories, present deceptions. In the story “Mycenae,” two couples meet in Athens after years apart—one brash, confident and American; one nervous, out of place and Australian. As the sun beats down, old secrets rise to the surface and demands to collaborate in new deceptions are made. A sister in “Rose Bay” hides a love affair she can never admit to. Meanwhile, the main character in “Art Appreciation” battles between his outer shell of respectability and inner desire to indulge in his vices. McFarlane has the trick of disconcerting her reader—in this collection characters are rarely who they first seem.
Many of McFarlane’s stories deal with the terrors of childhood. “Rose Bay” explores how children deal with loss and grief, while “Those Americans Falling from the Sky” has an uncanny sense of threat and foreboding as children try to make sense of violence and war. In one particularly chilling story, “Unnecessary Gifts,” McFarlane explores the childish thrill of hiding and disappearing, with horrifying consequences.
McFarlane has the gift of crafting captivating opening lines. (Special mention should go to “Man and Bird,” which opens: “In the hour of his humiliation, Reverend Adams still wore his hat.”) This is an excellent collection from an exciting, emerging talent.