Daily Archives: September 18, 2017

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night – Jen Campbell

I received a proof copy of this book at YALC.

I had never heard of Jen Campbell before, but her biography says that she’s a famous vlogger. In any case, The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night was one of the most beautiful proofs I got at YALC. It came in two versions, the night proof, which is what I got, and the day proof, which is a similar image, but in much brighter, daytime colours.

This collection of twelve short stories showcase the strange, the spooky, the weird side of fairytales, and will come with illustrations at the start of each story.

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night – Jen Campbell

34517748‘These days, you can find anything you need at the click of a button.
That’s why I bought her heart online.’

Spirits in jam jars, mini-apocalypses, animal hearts and side shows.
A girl runs a coffin hotel on a remote island.
A boy is worried his sister has two souls.
A couple are rewriting the history of the world.
And mermaids are on display at the local aquarium.

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is a collection of twelve haunting stories; modern fairy tales brimming with magic, outsiders and lost souls.

I really did not enjoy this book. It’s not even really fair to call it a book, because it’s a collection of short stories. But while I generally do enjoy collections of short stories, none of these stories had any point. Short one-shots, they gave you a glimpse into the lives of fairytale-type characters, from a hotel which specialises in giving you the experience of death to an aquarium where mermaids swim at night. But they were all just snapshots of lives, without any actual plot development or conflict to overcome, or … anything, really. They were just twelve one-shots into people’s lives.

Now I have to say that the writing was great. The twelve stories were all very different, but all had the same beautifully evocative and lyrical nature. I felt like I could see what was in front of me as each story began. Jen Campbell clearly has a way with words. I just didn’t feel like anything happened in any of these stories. And I like things to happen.

So for me this was a very mediocre read, and I finished it without any lingering feelings other than disappointment. But if you’re in the mood for a collection of strange and ephemeral stories of girls who buy hearts online, the worry that your sister has two souls in her body, or a discussion of how the world began, then this would definitely be the book for you. But it was not – at all – the book for me.

Three Stars

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