Speed Reading - Short story collections

Through a series of vignettes Hiromi Kawakami creates a vivid portrait of a Japanese neighbourhood. Her miniature tales become increasingly surreal and macabre. ‘The Love’ is a karaoke bar inhabited by a woman with the face of a demon. Her bland ready meals rarely attract customers unlike Uncle Round’s boisterous gambling den. In ‘The Hachiro Lottery’, different families are awarded guardianship of a boy until he finishes school. An elf covered in fur presides over the Music House. Two girls called Yoko are locked in rivalry until one of them dies.


Acclaimed Danish writer, Dorthe Nors turns an astute eye on ordinary lives and provides unexpected insights into human fallibility. In ‘Hygge’ (the Scandinavian word for ‘cosy’) an aging bachelor offers his body to elderly women with disastrous consequences. At the end of a relationship a writer retreats to a Norwegian cabin and befriends her former lover’s mother. In eloquent, spare prose, Nors reveals her characters’ obsessions, their loneliness and desire to connect.


Diane Cook’s dystopian fiction echoes Margaret Atwood, William Golding and Cormac McCarthy. She moves effortlessly between unsettling tales and darkly humorous examinations of contemporary society. Faced with catastrophe, many of her characters resort to base primal instincts; stripped of compassion. A widow is incarcerated, unable to mourn the loss of her husband, while she waits to be claimed by another. In a flooded world, a man with property on higher ground refuses to shelter his desperate neighbours. Fourteen “not-needed” boys turn against one another in order to survive. 

Originally published by The Tablet