On Yellowcake

I finally read my first Margo Lanagan book, friends! I have to admit it was very, very different. I am okay with that, really I am. However, parts of Yellowcake did not make for the best reading when I was in need of books that are light and do not require too much on my end. On the other hand, I did find Yellowcake to be very creative and actually pretty intelligent. Of course, mileage did vary for me for the different short stories in the Yellowcake collection.

Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan | Good Books And Good Wine

The Point Of Roses

I am not entirely sure what the setting is with this short story, but the people sounded British, at least from the dialect and language patterns that I read. Anyways, in this short story the main character is Billy, a young boy who is eleven or twelve. Billy lives with an old woman named Nance and an old man named Corin. One day he finds out that one of his best friends has psychic powers and so with a group of boys decide to do experiments. His friend Jo can bring inanimate objects to life in a peculiar sort of way. As a reader, I liked the writing style of this story, but unfortunately I didn’t really get it because I am as dense as a block of wood. I’ve made my peace with that.

The Golden Shroud

This short story is basically Rapunzel retold from the point of view of the prince. In this version, Rapunzel’s hair is magical. She also doesn’t really seem to have a whole lot of energy and kind of comes across as weepy and boring and weak. Alas. There’s also a witch. The writing though, continues to be badass. I enjoyed how Lanagan weaved the story.

A Fine Magic

Because I am kind of a freak, I LOVED this short story. Basically it’s about a fascinator or magician named Gallantine. He has a crush on these two sisters who are very well to do. When they reject him, he gets angry and decides to enact revenge. Y’all the revenge is terrifying in the same way that carnivals can be terrifying. It’s beautifully written and imaginative and ugh, perfect. So far this is my favorite short story in the book ALSO, it’s only like 10 pages, but I thought it was perfect.

An Honest Day’s Work

An Honest Day’s Work is about a boy who lives on an island where the inhabitants live off the salvage from beasts that these ships catch. It comes across as very similar to whaling. The story takes place on Amarlis’s first day of work where he kind of works as a spotter from the ground. To be honest with you, I did not get the point and found the gruesome world of this story quite confusing. Alas, not every short story can be a winner.

Into The Clouds On High

Into The Clouds On High is about a boy named Marcus who is visiting his mum at the hospital or ward, I was not quite sure, with his dad and his little sister Lenny. His mother has been absent for quite some time and she was preparing him to take on her duties and role within the family. All this seems sort of realistic and like the things that happen in normal human lives. Only, his mother is turning into a kind of angel. She’s like turning into a statue and so the story is about the visit and it’s outcome and what happens to Marcus’s mother, named Al. Once I got my bearings, I did like this story but it also took me over 5 days to get through so take that as you will.

Night Of The Firstlings

Lanagan takes on the story of Moses and the plague where all the firstborns disappear. This story is about a family who is experiencing something very similar to the Biblical exodus. It’s quite decent and interesting once I figured out that was what the author was going for. Also, it was kind of cool seeing the plague and the parting of the Red Sea through the eyes of someone who is NOT Moses. Also +1 for an awesome ending.

Catastrophic Disruption Of The Head

As I am an idiot, I had to google to see what Catastrophic Disruption Of The Head was retelling. It is a new take on Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Soldier And The Tin Box’ which I’ve never read. So, you know the whole story was entirely new to me. The main character is a soldier who goes from a really conservative land where women are covered up to a new land where women pretty much show everything in pictures and offer themselves up for dirty magazines. He finds himself becoming unpure because of all the sex he has and trigger warning, the main character is a rapist. Anyways, these people in the land he is fighting in have lighters. One lighter is kind of magic and apparently summons three dogs which can fetch people on a whim. So, the soldier ends up with all this money and has all kinds of women. Eventually, he ends up bedding a royal. The story is compelling for sure, and as a reader made me incredibly uncomfortable as it goes to the dark place of a rapist’s mind, which yeah not where I want to be. Intellectually, the story is sound, but emotionally I will simply say do not want. And I am sure she’s got a point but again I am not that smart, so it just went over my head. Maybe the point is how war can screw you up? I do not know.

Ferryman

Ferryman is about a girl whose dad ferries dead souls across the river Styx. It’s very short, just nine pages long but really packs an emotional punch. Essentially, the girl goes down the stairs from her normal home and normal life to bring her dad lunch at his work — bringing the dead across the river. The girl is nervous and scared, but she sings the whole way down because it gives her courage. Anyways, something tragic happens. Of course. Still, I quite liked how this story was written, the overall mood, and the use of Greek mythology. It kind of made me want to get back into a few series that I just have not continued on with yet.

Living Curiosities

Remember how freak shows were a thing once and people would go to them and look at people with misshapen limbs and mermaids and wolf men and all that? Well, Living Curiosities is about a girl who is a part of the freak show. Only, she’s very, very little. That’s her thing – I guess. Anyways, one day a well dressed man comes to the show and all is going well until he kills himself. The rest of the short story is the members of the ‘Curiosities’ trying to figure out why he did it, as he looked wealthy, he was normal and thus everything they seem to want to be. Overall, a weird story. Not awful though.

Eyelids Of The Dawn

I keep saying how weird the stories in this anthology are — but this one takes the cake. It is told from three points of views. The opening point of view is this giant creature who is seeking release from lice — gross. The second is this guy named Figuro who is depositing things on people’s steps to help them get ready for the day. The third point of view is a mother named Sendra. Again, the stories sort of meld and the point of this short story flew over my head because of my fixation on the lice thing. In all, Eyelids Of The Dawn was bizarre and otherworldly. Some people will think it is a cool story, especially those who are more insightful and more analytical than I am.

Disclosure: Obtained at Oblong Books During A Signing

Other reviews of Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan:

The Adventures Of An Intrepid Reader – “an extremely fertile imagination
Steph Su Reads – “The best audience for YELLOWCAKE is devoted Lanagan fans
Books I Done Read – “Margo Lanagan is the very best kind of crazy

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About April (Books&Wine)

April is 27 years old and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. In her free time she can be found reading, working out, or eating junk food. She often wears her sunglasses at night.

Comments

  1. I’ve read one Lanagan novel and a few short stories, and I have to say (on that extremely small acquaintance) that I like her short stories best. This one is on my radar now. Thanks for sharing!

    p.s. Go read BRIDES OF ROLLROCK ISLAND. I think you’ll like it!

  2. I have mixed feelings about Yellowcake as well. The Point of Roses confused me too much and then when I did get it … it just wasn’t that different or interesting. I thought it was bad short story to start the collection with. The Golden Shroud was “meh”. I liked A Fine Magic more than the other two. I didn’t really care for An Honest Day’s Work — it seemed like the only thing that was different about it was how the names were changed to see sci-fi/futuristic or something. Like they called their parents something different (not mom or dad, but I can’t remember what) and beasts seemed to replace whales, like you said.
    Into the Clouds On High was my favorite. It seemed truest to YA and intrigued me. Ferryman was another favorite of mine. Over all … the writing was great and it was really imaginative, but I don’t think I enjoyed reading most of it. It took me a long time to get through this collection. Great review!

  3. Yes, I think I had an advantage having read Margo Lanagan’s work before going into this one–I would only pick it up and read a story every two or three evenings when I was in the right mood for her stuff. I didn’t get The Point of Roses either, don’t worry, it’s not just you. A Fine Magic was my FAVORITE in the collection. And there were a couple that did nothing for me (the last two in particular). I definitely think that her style works well in short stories.

  4. Hmmm…I have yet to read Lanagan. I tried to read Tender Morsels…like…4 times…and I just can’t do it. Too many “NO NO MY EYES!” triggers. Heidi has recommended The Brides of Rollrock which I think I will try very soon. As it stands, your thoughts on these short stories just further reiterated the fact that Lanagan *might* not be the author for me.

    Kind of loving the idea of The Ferryman, though. I might see how Brides of Rollrock goes and if I can get through it, I might give this one a go!

  5. Ok so I didn’t realize this was a book of short stories?? I really want to read a book by this author. I once had Tender Morsels checked out from the library even though I knew it was supposedly tough to get through (doesn’t bother me) but I couldn’t get to it before it was due back and had a hold on it. STILL, it’s an award winner ( I think) and I really want to TRY IT and see if I can hang with it and it’s supposed weirdness. Also, I have the Brides of Rollrock Island on my Kindle and just haven’t taken the time to read it yet, but I should. I’m not sure I’d want to read the short stories for my first go, but I’d definitely give them a romp after getting something full-length under my belt for the first time. I don’t mind authors taking chances and being different and daring, and from what I’ve heard, this gal is one of them!

  6. So I read like five pages of Tender Morsels and DNFed in fear, but you are making me think I must try again. Plus, I’m a lot more used to reading about tough subjects than I was back when I tried Lanagan, so maybe it would be my jam now.

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