The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night Review (Guest Post: Charlotte, Somewhere)

This post is from Charlotte, Somewhere, a contributor to nosaferplace. Charlotte is a wife, mother, cocker spaniel owner and someday Queen of the Universe. She can almost always be found with her face in a book and a coffee in her hand. She likes writing, knitting, crafty things, baking, eating, walking, taking photos and nurturing a close relationship with her sofa and blankets.

"These days, you can find anything you need at the click of a button.
That's why I bought her heart online.”

When a collection starts with a line THAT gripping, how could you not love it? It also has a stunning (and slightly disturbing) cover that really makes you want to pick it up and find out what it’s all about. I was sold on this collection from the cover, and the opening line proved this was a good call. 

I adore a twisted fairy tale and The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is full of them. Jen references fairy tales and folklore throughout the collection, and it is clear that she loves them. I was lucky enough to attend her event at Blackwells in Newcastle, where she talked about some of her inspirations and read from the collection, and one of the things she talked about was the retelling of old stories in new ways to make readers look at them from a different perspective. This is something she achieves in this collection, which tackles familiar ideas but in very, very different ways. So often the twists in so-called twisted tales are predictable, but this is never the case here. 

The collection is full of wonderful stories, which tackles issues like bodily autonomy, creation, eating disorders and teenage pregnancy. I don’t want to tell you too much about it because to do so would really spoil the stories for you, and I really think everyone should discover this collection for themselves. 

There was no story in the collection that I didn’t like, but there were some which are firm favourites within the collection:

Animals really stood out for me. It punched me in the feels from the opening line and never really let up. The tension in this story builds slowly and carefully and before you really know what happened it ends in a place you could never have imagined. I read this one more than once before even looking at any other story in the collection. 

Jacob is a really special story in which Jen perfectly captures the voice and confusion of a young boy. I loved the way that he narrates his sister’s issues from the perspective of his youth. I have a small boy of my own and this is exactly the way he would tell a story. 

The title story, The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is, on one level, about a tree outside of a couple’s house, but it is also a story about beginnings of all kinds. It is beautifully told and really packs a punch. 

The concept of the ghosts in jam jars in Little Deaths and the Coffin Hotel in Aunt Libby’s Coffin Hotel were both fascinating and creepy, and Margaret and Mary and the End of the World tackles some difficult issues linked to Bible stories in a very unexpected way. 

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is just wonderful. Perfect for anyone who loves a fairy tale with a sting in its tail. I promise if you pick up this collection you will not be disappointed. 

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