Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken

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Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken

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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Susmita Chatto
Reviewed by Susmita Chatto
Summary: Powerful, unsettling stories focusing on human life and fraility.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: July 2015
Publisher: Vintage
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0099592976

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I chose to review this collection of short stories with no prior knowledge of the author's work – often the best way to do it, though I am aware that McCracken's work comes highly commended. After reading these stories, I can see why and I am already looking forward to reading more of her work.

This eclectic collection is a real showcase of skill. McCracken has an extraordinary ability to lead the reader to the sinister aspects of a story with a very gentle touch; the sensitivity of her writing is incredibly striking. The first two stories, Something Amazing and Property show an acute awareness of the almost imperceptible feelings sometimes experienced as part of bereavement, as well as highlighting the unreality that can take over afterwards.

Observations of those small things are key to McCracken's style and the extraordinary appreciation of such subtleties accentuates the sinister parts of her writing. Reading Something Amazing, I felt a slow creep of anxiety which was entirely due to the finely honed sense of the dramatic. I feel a little silly saying that because of course a writer should have that sense – but as I progressed through each story, I was really struck by the fact that McCracken has it in spades.

I was also impressed with her clean style of writing which matched well with the bleakness of many of the stories. For me, the worst of the bleakness featured in both the title story and Some Terpsichore. The behaviour of the characters and the simplicity of the language used to convey the most appalling things blended together very well. The stories are a window on real life; as someone who enjoys reading for escapism that can be hard, but because this collection is so well written it is still enjoyable to read.

To describe any story even in part would be to risk spoilers, but that forms part of the appeal. The narrative is structured so that it is often a surprise to end up where you do - but when you look back, everything links so smoothly you feel as if you should have seen it coming. The stories themselves show how human beings remember things inaccurately though – a clever touch which left me needing to take a break between stories in order to clear my head before moving on to the next one.

Overall, this is a challenging collection of well-crafted stories written with consummate skill.

If you like this book you might enjoy Manhattan Mayhem – New Crime Stories from the Mystery Writers of America by Mary Higgins Clark (editor)

Buy Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken at

Buy Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken at


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