Book Review – ‘Witches Sail In Eggshells’ by Chloe Turner

I purchased a digital copy of this book from the publisher.

A young girl’s fortunes change, reflected in the colours of a stone necklace. Parents behave as badly as their bratty children at a spoilt eight-year-old’s party. A woman watches her fruitful garden wither as her own unborn child grows. A doctor treats the daughter of her own childhood bully. A childless fisherman finds a baby on the beach. These just some of the stories in Chloe Turner’s Witches Sail In Eggshells.

This collection of stories examines relationships both with others and with ourselves, and how we see when we frame ourselves through the lens of other people. At the core of each story is a deep emotional resonance, in which the characters come to realisations about their own feelings and the things they have let go of. There are moments of sweet release, reluctant acceptance, and sometimes a satisfying atonement. A standout moment occurs in the story ‘Piñata’, with the jolt of recognition when Lou sees echoes of the past in Joanne; a sharply observed example of how children reflect their parents. In this recognition comes a desire to make amends.

There is a strong sense of the eerie about these stories; the metaphor in ‘Inches Apart’ is a macabre but accurate representation of a dying relationship. The natural word appears frequently as well, both in metaphors and settings; and in the lovely story ‘The Day You Asked Me’ which uses the seasons to convey the passage of time and progression of life. These organic images are also used skilfully in description: Though there is something sad about her, a drooping wilt to her tall frame as if her roots might be too shallow. There is also in some of the stories a dark undercurrent; almost something of a warning about the strength of nature and the folly of messing with it. This is where the magical realism and folklore themes in the book shine most vigorously.

Turner has a lyrical turn of phrase and her descriptions are vivid, leaping off the page: Butterfly wings, grey and shapeless like newspaper left in the rain. The craft in the stories is evident in their rhythm and tension. Their pacing is perfect and each finishes at just the right moment – some with a neat ending, others leaving the reader to join the threads together. The variety in character, duration and narrative makes an engaging read. 

Chloe Turner has brought together a mesmerising, complex and deliciously unsettling collection of tightly woven tales, driven by a diverse cast. At once vibrant and disquieting, these stories have a nuance and complexity that pulls the reader back again and again, revealing new details and meanings with each read. This impressive collection will keep your attention from start to finish.

Witches Sail In Eggshells is available now from Reflex Fiction.

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