Review: Outsiders edited by Alice Slater (2020)

Blurb

This is an anthology about people who don’t fit in. These stories explore what it is to be an outsider, from some of the most exciting voices in short fiction.

From lovers to loners, moonlighters to midnight walkers, these pages are haunted by more than ghosts: loss, lack of direction, insecurity and otherworldly hunger. 

But most importantly, it asks the question: if we’re us, then who are you?

With stories from: Julia Armfield, Jen Campbell, Sarvat Hasin, Beverley Ho, Emma Hutton, Susan James, Kirsty Logan, Lena Mohamed, Heather Parry, Leone Ross, Stephanie Victoire, Anna Walsh, Eley Williams, Lara Williams and Anna Wood and a foreword by Irenosen Okojie.

Review

I have been meaning to read this collection for ages, and I am so glad I finally found a space for it in my busy reading life. The anthology has a foreward by Irenosen Okojie, whose brilliant short story collection Nudibranch I raved about last year, and many of these stories seem tinged with her influence, playing with the borders of reality, pushing boundaries and revelling in the strange gorgeousness of language.

The list of authors involved reads like a shelf of my own TBR bookcase – I’ve just bought Leone Ross’s new novel This One Sky Day; Salt Slow by Julia Armfield is one I think I would love; Eley Williams and Anna Wood are also waiting patiently on my shelf. So it is no surprise that reading this anthology felt like coming home, like swimming in the murky, silky waters of the type stories I love. I am even more excited to read more by these authors now.

My favourite stories were Anna Wood’s ‘Francine,’ a deceptively simple tale of a chance encounter at a festival; ‘Peep Hole’ by Leone Ross, ‘Skin’ by Lena Mohamed, which reminded me of the work of Carmen Maria Machado in My Body and Other Parties, the bizarre and frankly hilarious ‘Sinkhole’ (sorry, I can’t work out how to do a heart instead of the ‘o’!) by Emma Hutton, and Susan James’ subtly heart-breaking ‘But Not Like That’. However, in each and every story, I found much to admire and ponder – these stories go deep, and I want to reread the whole collection, probably several times.

What surprised and delighted me the most about this collection was how cohesive it felt. The common theme of being an outsider is not overplayed – it is subtler in some stories, almost a background note, but it adds so much to the anthology as a whole, so that the stories thread together like beautiful beads on a necklace. We dip our toes into horror, love stories, tales of grief and friendship and loneliness, and leave feeling wrung out from our immersion in the whole spectrum of feelings presented here. This is a collection to revisit, to cherish, to dive into again and again.

Outsiders edited by Alice Slater is out now from 3 of Cups Press and is available to purchase here.

4 thoughts on “Review: Outsiders edited by Alice Slater (2020)

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