adult fiction · contemporary · review

The Beginning Of The World In The Middle Of The Night – Jen Campbell

“The stopping is important. You have to wait for the heart to become desperate; wait for it to think you’ve forgotten all about it. Then – and only then – do you smother it again with love and affection.”

finalcover

Blurb: “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.”

 *This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I have followed Jen Campbell for a while through her youtube channel where she discusses books and, while I’m not necessarily a reader of the same things as she is, her passion for fairytale, folklore and magical realism is impossible to ignore. It’s almost contagious. However, in terms of her writing I have only delved into Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops which is a small non-fiction piece.  Then I was given the opportunity to get an early copy of her new book, a collection of short stories, called The Beginning Of The World In The Middle Of The Night.

I always feel that I can never fairly judge short story collections as a whole because I’ve never come across one where I have loved every single story equally; often there are a few stories where I didn’t really understand the point being made. For that reason, I’m going to highlight the few tales that jumped out at me:

The first is a story called “Animals” which is coincidently the first in the collection and really did knock me over. I was completely hooked from the first sentence, transported into this world where the characters can buy new hearts at the click of a button. Is your heart broken?  That’s no problem. Just simply get a new one. One character gets a replacement after being unfaithful. It’s no big deal in this world. It was a very strong start to the book and hit home the important of love.

The second story that grabbed hold of me and didn’t let go was “Jacob” in which a boy writes a letter to his beloved weather lady about his life and how he isn’t coping too well with the changes in his sister. It was a heart-warming, but also sad, read about identity and wanting to reach out to others.

The third story to stay with me was “Margaret And Mary And The End Of The World” which focused on religion and the importance of how you are perceived to the outside world.

The final story to stick in my mind was “Little Death” in which spirits roam the lands and are captured to be sold or kept in labs to be used in experiments to create immortality. It was beautifully haunting.

Every part of this collection was thought-provoking in its own way and each layer reveals another truth we avoid admitting to ourselves as well as others. Jen’s outside interests really shine through and cement her as a truly wonderful talent.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings

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