Breaking Beauty – No Average Anthology (review)

Breaking Beauty - Australian short stories reviewedBreaking Beauty, edited by Lynette Washington
MidnightSun Publishing RRP:$24.99AUD

It’s been far too long since I’ve read a really good, themed anthology. These used to be one of my favourite ways to snatch moments of poetic escapism when I was a uni student (and lacking time to immerse myself fully in reading anything that wasn’t on the course list).  I love the variety of topics, styles and voices to be found in a short story collection.  They have many virtues for busy readers, including snapshots of the writing styles of emerging authors and a chance for experienced authors to put a ‘small’ idea into sharp focus. An anthology is a book of substance that can yet be read in bite size pieces.

A bit like making short films, or even music videos, writing short stories that touch the hearts and minds of readers is a specialised skill. As many writers – and editors – know only too well, it can often be harder to make a point in fewer words.  Breaking Beauty is an eclectic mix of tales that showcases the talents of 27 new and established writers in the short story genre.

Edited by Lynette Washington and brought to us by innovative independent Australian publishing house MidnightSun, the title alludes to the dissection of the common understanding of beauty. What does ‘beauty’ really mean? Where and how do we find it? As these diverse stories unfold, we see beauty revealed in both conventional and unexpected places.

The great variety of approaches to the topic in this collection means you probably won’t enjoy every story; but a few will resonate and linger long after you’ve put the book down.

Stefan Laszczuk’s The Window Winder is a surreal venture into urban legend territory. A labourer passes the scene of a horrific accident and witnesses an unbelievable moment of life – and longing – after death.

Gillian Britton’s Beautiful Girl drops the reader into the crazy rush of a busy school morning in a bustling blended family where everyone carries a chip on their shoulder of one kind or another.  Amidst the cacophony, one member of the family is sinking deeper into herself until a final cry for help takes their lives in a new direction.

Jessica Clements’ Olive/Oliver explores the difficult decisions that form part of early pregnancy when the ‘routine tests’ do not offer comforting results.

These are just a select few that I found personally affecting, but the options are many and varied.  All the writers attended the Creative Writing postgraduate program at the University of Adelaide and many have been published widely before and since. The anthology comes with an introduction from Brian Castro and cover praise from J.M. Coetzee, suggesting this is no average graduate writing collection.

Previous MidnightSun Publishing titles reviewed on this blog include The Hum Of Concrete, Pangamonium and Peace, Love & Khaki Socks. 

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