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The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night | Jen Campbell | Review

Spirits in jam jars, mini-apocalypses, animal hearts and side shows.
A girl runs a coffin hotel on a remote island.
A boy is worried his sister has two souls.
A couple are rewriting the history of the world.
And mermaids are on display at the local aquarium.

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is an enchanting and often dark mixture of fairy tales in the modern world. There are hearts purchased online, children who grow vines in their hair, and a mysterious new planet. There is also a young boy just trying to understand his family, a soldier who walks into a stranger's kitchen, and a couple who spend the night discussing how the world began. In other words, when reading The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night you never know exactly what to expect.

Each story in this collection contains its own little world, and while some of these worlds are stranger than others, each one feels as though it could exist within our own somehow. There is a sense of fairy tale influence in all of the stories but they each vary in how much or how little they depend upon this, and each story does feel very much as though the world within it exists on its own, drawing you into something different and new for a few pages before spitting you out again. The only complaint this draws is that some of the stories are very short, and the best ones leave a longing for them to be just a bit longer, so that more time might be spent getting to know these unique and fascinating worlds

As with any short story collection, readers will connect with some stories more than others. Personally, my favourites were 'Aunt Libby's Coffin Hotel' about a girl and her aunt who run a hotel on an island, where guests can rent a coffin to sleep in for a night, and 'Little Deaths' about a world in which ghosts are caught, bought, and sold in jars. I would have loved for both of these to have been a little longer so that I could have learnt more about those worlds and the people in them. There were, of course, some stories that I didn't like so much, but while I didn't quite connect with 'Jacob' or 'Plum Pie. Zombie Green. Yellow Bee. Purple Monster' I am certain that there will be plenty of other readers who will find those to be their favourite stories in the collection.

If you're a particular lover of dark, whimsical, fairytale inspired short stories, then you definitely won't regret picking up The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night and with such a variety of different story telling techniques and subjects displayed, there is bound to be something here for any short story lover.

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