#AWW2020 Fiona McFarlane
- Author: Fiona McFarlane
- Title: The High Places (13 stories, 288 pg)
- Genre: short stories
- Published: 2016
- List of Challenges 2020
- Monthly plan
- Fiona McFarlane is the winner of £30,000 Dylan Thomas Prize 2017.
- The prize is open to writers in the English language aged 39 and under.
- NOTE: Longlist for Dylan Thomas Prize 2020 will be announced
- at the Jaipur Literature Festival @JaipurLitFest
- 24 Jan 2020 0800 GMT (0900 CET) 1900 Sydney Australia
- Here are a few more stories I tried to summarize.
- Short stories are a joy to read….
- …but a chore to review!
- I’m always searching for the right template for a
- short story collection blogpost.
- I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
- Everyone will have their own favorites stories
- …but mine are:
- Mycenae (Janet….I loved her!)
- Man and Bird ( …shortest story in collection…but packs a punch!)
- Violet, Violet (enchanting, had to laugh out-loud!)
- The High Places (reveals the meaning of the title!)
- #MustRead Fiona McFarlane
Exotic Animal Medicine
- POV: 3rd-person narrative focused on one character Sarah.
- Plot: Sarah: animal veterinarian who specializes in exotic animal medicine.
- On her wedding day the newly-weds are involved in a car crash
- on their way to her surgery job…an accident on a dark country road.
- My Question: Sarah cares for victim of car accident
- ..but had Sarah had too much to drink?
- Conflict: Sarah’s inner struggle accident, no witnesses, old man dies.
- Theme: Burden of guilt is heavy….hard feeling to handle. What should I do?
- Ending: is satisfying but not a neatly tied up conclusion.
I read the story too quickly. I formed an ‘ending’ in my thoughts before I even finished the story. I was taking the easy way out and assumed this would be a cut and dry story about the burden of guilt. I missed the essential role played by the cat Queen of Sheba!
I knew this story had more to offer than meets the eye. It won a very prestigious literary prize in 2009 at th school where McFarlane was studying: University of Texas in Austin. Also having read an article by Joe Morgan in The Guardian about reflection and quiet absorption…the art of slow reading. I decided to take it slowly.
The story took on a whole new dimension.
….the parallel between the cat Sheba and Mr. Ronald! It felt that Sarah the main character had a telepathic connection with the cat in the surgery.
Mr. Ronald….dying in the car moaned as did the cat in its cage many miles away.
This gave the story a ‘spooky’ feeling.
- POV: First Person Janet tells the story and interacts in the story as well.
- Plot: 2 couples (60+) (college friends) on a reunion holiday in Greece
- Characters: Janet – Murray (live in AUS) Amy – Eric (live in USA)
- Theme: marriage
- Timeline: 1 week
- Clever play on words: Cornwall is south westernmost point of England
It is where the couples as young students spent a holiday.
Relationships were tested.
“Marriage is like that, isn’t it, …It reaches a point.”
- Strong point: Feeling of pathos
I can relate to Janet because I understand what it feels like to have a girlfriend
who runs the show, steals the spotlight with no care of what others may feel!
- POV: Third Person narrator is in a “god-like” position
in which he can see into the minds of the characters.
- Plot: Henry is a gambling man. He likes to weigh his odds and options
- He likes a little profit…a little loss.
- But what happens when he discovers love does not work this way!
- Characters: Henry (28 yr) – Ellie (fiancé) Kath (mistress)
- Theme: marriage; loneliness
- Timeline: 1,5 year
- Strong point: Character development (Henry)
Henry utilizes the emotions of others to his own ends.
Machiavellian…he is motivated out of pure, calculating self-interest.
Man and Bird:
- POV: 3rd person
- Plot: fall of a local preacher when he doubts his faith
- Characters: preacher and white parrot
- Theme: faith
- Timeline: unspecified in story
- Strong point: symbol of a parrot seen as a messenger from God
…but the preacher feels he is “mindlessly mimicking” God’s message
…as a parrot mimics speech!
- Strong point: McFarlane ‘bookends’ her story.
The imagery that introduced the story…ends the story.
This gives the reader a feeling that loose ends are tis up
…. of coming full circle.
- NOTE: story contains no dialogue an is shortest story in the collection
- POV: First Person Philip (father) tells the story and interacts in the story as well
- Grandparents provide Phil and Glenda state-of-the are devices….see
- Title: “Unnecessary Gifts” to attach to James and Greg to track their movements.
- …to keep their grandchildren safe. But the parents did not keep up the surveillance.
- Boys disappear from neighbourhood….where are they?
- Philip – Glenda – Greg – James ( father/mother/sons)
- Tony (playmate of James and Greg)
- Tony’s brother (security guard in store at the mall)
- Theme: parenting
- ….grandparents are savvy of dangers that their own children do not see!
- Timeline: 1 day (…with flashbacks to provide background family info)
- Strong point: tension…mention of police report,
- security tapes and Tony’s brother’s statement on
- …2nd page is foreshadowing that something is going to go wrong!
- Weak point: the aforementioned ‘tension …where did it go?
- The story fizzles out completely! Deflates like a cold soufflé!
- I’m very disappointed with this selection…it had so much potential.
- It feels like Mcfalrlane’s heart and concentration are not really in
- this story: “she phoned it in.”
Those Americans Falling From the Sky
- POV: First Person Jeanie tells the story and interacts in the story as well
- Plot: pastoral description of life @home for Jeanie en Nora
- ….and the impact of US airmen in the town of Merrigool.
- But the story enters around 8 dead airmen whose
- plane crashed behind their farm and one missing parachutist.
- Their souls began to cause trouble in the area.
- Edith (60+) neighbor
- Nora – Jeanie (sisters)
- Maggie (mother) – Frank (stepfather of sisters)
- Theme: nostalgia
- Weak point: the story felt a bit pointless
- Memories of life on a farm during WW II in Australia
- …nothing else.
- “Their souls began to cause trouble in the area”
- …sounded like an excellent opportunity to write some great
- …subplots but McFarlane did not flesh this out.