The Unmapped Country: Stories and Fragments by Ann Quin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As ever, I find it difficult to review a book of short stories, because each story is unique, different, and says something distinct. They are each their own entity, yet grouped together, to make a kind of whole – a disconcerting one at that.
To start with I have to say that I had never come across Ann Quin before. In fact, I cannot recall ever hearing her name. I think that, by itself, says much about the way in which female voices from the past are lost, because her writing, experimental, brave, searing and honest, was a revelation.
The story that stood out for me was Nude and Seascape. It was profoundly disturbing, offering an immersive read into a series of events I could never quite grasp the context of, but at the same time, knowing that the context was entirely irrelevant. It was a visceral, worrying, menacing read, but intriguing.
A Double Room was almost painful to read, layered with sadness, exploitation and loneliness. This too, was quite unsettling to read.
All in all, with the obvious disclaimer that some of the stories, or the fragments of stories, are better than others, I delighted in Quin’s very unusual style. Motherlogue was revelatory, and it reminded me of Lucy Ellman’s Ducks, Newburyport, but on a microscopic scale.
This is one book I would recommend for lovers of literary fiction and experimental writing. I will definitely be looking up Quin’s novels and adding to my to be read pile.
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