Happy last Wednesday in June Bibliofriends!
Short stories are an art of their own. To do it well is some achievement, but to do it so well that it becomes powerful enough to leap off the page into your bookish heart is something else entirely… It’s safe to say that Mark Newman is a master of the short story art form.
My Fence Is Electric: and Other Stories is an anthology full of award-winning stories that deal with a lot of the macabre sentimentalities of everyday human existence. Dysfunctional families are actually quite normal nowadays; we don’t always know what goes on behind closed doors; many of us have parts of ourselves that we’d rather change or adapt. In places, Newman writes parables of bygone childhoods for reminiscent adults – others form as eerie ghost stories of the living – literary brilliance right up my street!
Book: My Fence is Electric: and Other Stories by Mark Newman
Genre: Short Stories
Publication Date: 18th February 2020
Publisher: Odyssey Books
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
A housing estate is in shock following a child’s disappearance. A girl and her invisible friend go their separate ways. A father and a son bond over Post-It notes. A single father and his daughter have different approaches to the disappearance of their dog. A father finds his way to coax his agoraphobic son back out into the world.
My Fence is Electric and Other Stories is a collection of award-winning short stories looking at those moments in life that fizz with the electric intensity of change.
Many big themes (love, hope, freedom, conservation, illness, tragedy and change) are represented in these stories and Newman has such a wonderful way with words and descriptions; it really appealed to the inner logophile within me. Here are some of my personal favourites:
Before There Were Houses, This Was All Fields – Living in a rural area, I can relate majorly to our fields turning into building sites. This story opened Newman’s collection in a way which sets the tone for the whole compilation. The spooky imagery of the fairytale street names followed by evil and the likening of houses to skulls with their concrete breeze blocks and no windows for eye sockets was exceptional. You’re reminded that this story could so easily have been something you watch on the evening news. In a world with an expanding population and increasing housing need it’s an apt nod to what humanity has concreted over.
Little Yellow Squares discusses the way we can be talking about the same thing but really be having two entirely different conversations – all I can say is, I wish my post-it notes did what they do in this story!
We Sink When We Swim – I love the symbolism of the swimming pool in this story. The way it represents a journey, growing old, being lonely and the metaphorical way it considers what is really beneath the surface of the water and our emotions.
Butterfly Farm – So short yet so sweet. Without spoilers, I love the way the way freedom is represented and parodied between the butterflies and ‘she’.
My Fence is Electric focuses on the way we try to protect ourselves from heartbreak, I’ll never look at an electric fence again without thinking of this story.
Rosa is Red, Violet is Blue centres around our identities, how we strive to be someone different and the change we want to bring about in ourselves. I enjoyed the way the colours represented differing attitudes and personality traits.
I read My Fence is Electric: and Other Stories during the coronavirus lockdown and it strikes me as the perfect ‘stay-at-home’ book to remind you of ‘real people’ during this time when we can’t see our friends and families as we usually would. It’s a reminder that we are all unique, we all have little worlds inside our own heads, yet we are all out here on planet earth trying to survive through this together whilst being socially distanced and apart. In my own little way, the stories reminded me slightly of a bookish version of my favourite Florence + the Machine songs, probably another reason why I thoroughly enjoyed it. This collection really does have something for everyone, you can dip in and out of the stories at any time or read them through in their published entirety.
When I think of the greats of the short story genre, I often think of the renowned anthologies: Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love; Katherine Mansfield’s The Garden Party and Other Stories; Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber – I will now definitely be adding Mark Newman’s My Fence Is Electric: and Other Stories onto that list as well – it deserves its place there.
A big thank you to Odyssey Books for getting in contact with me via Twitter and providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. An extra big THANK YOU to Mark Newman for bringing these incredible stories into my life! ☺️
Even if you don’t normally read short stories, there is bound to be something for you in this collection – I would wholeheartedly recommend you read it!
What’s your favourite short story ever? Do you prefer longer short stories or short short stories? As always, drop me a comment to chat!