Things We Say in the Dark by Kirsty Logan
Published by Harvill Secker, 2019
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Sometimes a book sounds so tailored towards your taste that it could never possibly live up to your sky-high hopes. I fear that was the case for me with Logan’s Things We Say in the Dark, a collection of feminist horror stories that was easily one of my most anticipated releases of the year.
There are definitely lots of things to admire here. Logan’s prose is always readable, but it’s punctuated by moments of linguistic beauty, with vivid and evocative imagery peppered throughout. Some of these disturbing tableaus are sure to linger in the mind. The stories themselves are mostly contemporary, but there’s a timeless quality to the themes being explored. Namely, the domestic fears of everyday life – particularly those that haunt young women. Logan takes the things we’re told by society to aim for – the gorgeous home, the perfect family, the successful life – and spins our apprehensions about them into what reads like a series of fever dreams, as though she has literally documented her nightmares in the form of a dream diary. What if our houses aren’t the safe spaces we always imagined? What if you find the experience of pregnancy and childbirth horrifying rather than beautiful? How would you cope if your child wasn’t healthy or happy? What if you wished you’d never become a parent at all? What if you can never escape the horrors of your past? These fears and more are explored in claustrophobic, hypnotic ways by employing a dash of fairy tale, a twist of the supernatural, and a generous pinch of magical realism.
With around 20 stories in all, this is a generous collection. Though I very much enjoyed the dark, ethereal tone employed throughout, there were comparatively few that stood out as individual highlights. Those that did were Birds Fell From the Sky and Each One Spoke in Your Voice, which follows a man haunted by the long-ago death of his brother, and Good Good Good, Nice Nice Nice, a semi sci-fi tale about a woman who works at a baby growing farm (it’s hard to explain), who is struggling with the care of her own sickly baby. Other stories I enjoyed included one about a woman who feels isolated after moving to a new country, one about a woman who has fallen in love with her friend, and one about a woman who discovers disturbing realities regarding her deceased grandmother when she inherits her house.
Sadly, most of the other stories began to blend into one, making this a collection I’m far more likely to remember for its overall mood than I am for its specific plots and characters. Whilst I was consistently hooked by the fantastic concepts and themes at play, a few too many stories tipped into ‘weird for the sake of being weird’ territory for my personal taste. It’s a shame, as when this collection is good, it’s very, very good. I’m more than willing to accept that my own high expectations contributed to my slightly lukewarm response. Logan is still an author I very much admire, and I will continue to follow her career with excitement.
If you’d like to give Things We Say in the Dark a go, you can pick up a copy from Book Depository by clicking here.