The Rental Heart and other Fairytales by Kirsty Logan

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The Rental Heart and other Fairytales by Kirsty Logan

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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A very wide spread of different dark tales, although I didn't completely successfully engage.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 128 Date: March 2014
Publisher: Salt Publishing
ISBN: 9781907773754

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To start with, are these stories strictly fairytales? On the evidence of this collection, it is at times a distinction that seems open to debate, a category that lies waiting for definition. But at the same time, such is the genre-switching (and at times gender-switching), that it is a subtitle that serves better than most. The title story examines a life's romantic history via a twist on the idea that we give our heart away to every lover – what do we have when they are gone and a new one takes their place? Elsewhere, a landed lady takes advantage of her servant, and another cultured madam hires a clockwork companion to shrug off the suitors, with obvious, narratively logical results. A medical worker and her pregnant partner share a caravan together, all the while knowing a different circumstance might be closer than first thought. We have the beginnings of love lives, the end of hatred, and the end of the world in these pages.

At times we are on a small island, not specified as such but with the vocabulary that alerts the reader to the author's Scottish roots. It's the scene of grief, sexual awakening, and a much more realistic approach to the idea of the unusual teenager than the X-Men ever provided. But in spreading from rural places to the cityscape, to historical eras and more, this book provides a wide variety of styles and contents. To repeat, the hook of fairy-tale might be stretched here, perhaps to the dislike of some.

It does show its debut book status on its sleeve a little too much at times. Only three of the twenty stories here have never been seen before (or heard on Radio 4, upon mention of which I might add that some have an adult sexual content that would never get them aired in that forum). Some of the shorter pieces are a little closer to the impenetrable, although with a range of from two to sixteen pages this is not just a dump for someone's flash fiction. Also, however, the style can be a little too earnest, although the use of applerumped as an adjective and so on does settle down to something a bit more routine, and again on that the jury might be divided.

All of which is a way for me to say I'm undecided on this volume. I didn't mind whether the book tried to revisit old classic fairytales, as it does with a very novel look at Cinderella, or invent new fables. It tends, in my inexpert eye, to do the latter much more often, even if departure and/or entrapment, romance and other desires are all regular contents of any kind of fairytale. Certainly what Logan does is provide more than enough variety in these pages, and gives herself a more than competent shop-window full of goodies. I can definitely say that, just as my favourite here, of a woman desperate to become a successful gardener, proves, this is certainly a sign that a woman like Kirsty Logan can get anything to grow, in some shape or form.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Pulling off the unusual in flash fiction and longer styles of short-form storytelling is also done in The White Road by Tania Hershman, perhaps the sci-fi equivalent to Logan's fantasy.

Buy The Rental Heart and other Fairytales by Kirsty Logan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Rental Heart and other Fairytales by Kirsty Logan at Amazon.co.uk


Buy The Rental Heart and other Fairytales by Kirsty Logan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Rental Heart and other Fairytales by Kirsty Logan at Amazon.com.

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