It was an easy task to devour this book quickly. The prose is light, but the effects are crafted with a deft hand.
Most of the stories deal with the lives of women, although two are from the perspective of young males with voices that are equally authentic. The stories traverse the intimate territories of grief, rejection, religious feeling, guilt and the struggle to understand one’s self. In exploring these emotional landscapes, Swann often dips in and out of the characters’ memories, seamlessly weaving different levels of time together, deepening the complexity of each story by providing thought-provoking subtext.
A few of the stories had awkward or disconcerting starts. Presumably this was deliberate, but it is the equivalent of tripping over the threshold before you get into the house, and short stories don’t have much time to prove themselves.
In general, Swann’s visual descriptions are a pleasure to read and some are quite striking: ‘the smile kept bursting through like a bed spring’, 'darkness lapped over her skin like warm milk’ and ‘white blood moonlight’. The regular observance of fruit coloured skies to no particular purpose became noticeable, but this is probably unfair to point out when reading a whole collection together.
With more room to layer complexities and display the author’s skill in building ‘powerful undertow’, the novella is probably the highlight of the collection. With this first book Swann shows she is a writer to watch out for in the future.