Title: The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night
Author: Jen Campbell
Publishing Date: November 2nd 2017
Genres: Adult, Mystery
Pages: 212 pages
“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.”
I read this book for the 7 in 7 Readathon and, especifically, for the challenge to read a book outside my comfort zone. I don’t usually like anthologies and the stories in this one had magical elements, I have never read an anthology with this type of elements before, so those are the reasons I chose this for that challenge. I ended up really enjoying this book, it was really well written, I loved a few of the stories and I didn’t hate any of them, which is always a risk with anthologies. Here are my thoughts about each story:
Animals (3.8 stars):
- Beautiful & captivating writing
- It’s thought provoking: it discusses love, abusive relationships, giving up too easily versus trying until everything turns ugly, & a loveless world versus a world obsessed with love.
- It was predictable in terms of the relationship between main character and Cora, but it had a surprising element at the end.
- I could have used more details about the world in which this takes place.
Jacob (3,5 stars):
- This was a cute and simple story about a kid asking a bunch of question that seemed random but that were connected to a need of estability in a time where everything in his life was changing.
- I’m amazed at Campbell’s ability to write in very different tones and styles. This is completely different from the first story.
- The voice of the main character, who is a kid, is compelling.
Plum Pie. Zombie Green. Yellow Bee.Purple Monster (3,5 stars):
- I liked the way this addressed disfigurement and bodily differences through a metaphor of characters that were part human and part plant.
- But I didn’t find this as captivating as the others.
- As with the first story, I could have used more details about the world in which this takes place.
In the night (3,2 stars):
- It had funny bits and I really liked the narrator
- It had a nostalgic feeling to it, but I didn’t necessarily understood the point it was trying to make or the meaning behind it.
Margaret and Mary and the End of the World (5 stars):
- This story was heartbreaking and infuriating and the best one of the book
- I loved the references to fairytales, art history and religion
- It deals with heavy subjects like eating disorders and sexual assault
Little Deaths (3,2 stars):
- This was way too short
- Interesting concept revolving around ghosts
- An intriguing way to look at death
The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night (5 stars):
- This story is a conversation, an interesting – even if it seems random at first – conversation.
- The ending is surprising and really good, and it left me feeling so sad.
- It’s one of those stories that even if they are short, they pack a punch.
Pebbles (3,2 stars):
- I liked the fact that it was a f/f story and that it features a celebration of pride.
- Campbell was trying to say something about war in this nooks and, there was a very obvious point she was trying to make about how people romanticise war, but I could find a deeper meaning or maybe there wasn’t one.
Aunt Libby’s Coffin Hotel (4,2 stars):
- The story had a cool concept about a hotel where people can come closer to death and spirits and prepare themselves for death and it’s basically a scam, that’s where the story begins.
- It ended too abruptly. It was getting intriguing and creepy and then it ended
- The way it dealt with the fear of death and what comes after dying, was really interesting.
Sea Devils (3,5 stars):
- I think I don’t completely understand the relationship between the sea devils and the real devils of the story.
- Maybe the point is that sometimes we think evil is in somethings or some places when it’s not, but we don’t see actual evil when it’s right in front of us.
- It left me sad but it had a good ending.
Human Satellites (3 stars):
- The concept of this story was interesting, it’s about this thing that they find in space that it’s like a planet made of screens that play scenes from the past, the present and the future and how people react to it.
- I didn’t really understand the point of the story, I feel like the idea was interesting but it lacked a bit of development. Maybe that’s just me not getting what the story was trying to say.
- It was too short.
White Bright Hearts (3,2 stars):
- I liked the way it talked about being different and about bodily difference in particular.
- This story was a bit all over the place, sometimes it jump from one thought to the other quite abruptly.
Overall rating: 4 stars
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