I recently read Adam Haslett’s debut collection of short stories, ‘You Are Not a Stranger Here’ released in 2002. I read this article, ‘The Perpetual Solitude of the Writer’ on the Literary Hub about the mindset of the writer and found Haslett’s take on it very interesting, hence trying his book.

So glad I did. There are interesting and varied narrators in this collection. The themes and ideas aren’t that varied – such as mental illness, sexuality, loss, but they are explored in depth.

Some of my favourite parts were the way a Bruegel painting in ‘The Good Doctor’ becomes so alive, but sinister because of the story relayed around it. There are some supernatural/inexplicable tales in this volume too, which were interesting. In ‘Divination’ we experience the strange with the main character in alls its subtlety:

“It had stilled a part of Samuel’s mind he’d never realised hd been moving. A tiny ball in the middle of his brain had spun to a halt. It scared him. He’d always thought fear would be something fast, a thing that pushed you forwards.”

My favourite though was ‘The Volunteer’ in seeing the world through the eyes of Elizabeth, where her family’s history collides with her present in such an intense and disturbing way.

“Elizabeth begged for the doctor to give her something to blunt the vicious pain in her abdomen. In the moments of reprieve, she’d open her eyes and from the walls of her bedroom see the dead generations staring down at her: daguerreotypes of gaunt women and Simian-faced men, stiff as iron in Sunday black, posed as if to meet their maker.”

(Image from http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/)