This chilling story collection (192 pages) was published in October of 2019 by Harvill Secker. The book takes you to unsettling situations. Melissa read Things We Say in the Dark and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
Some things — wriggling, sticky, unjust, and bleak things — cannot be addressed in the revealing light of day. But at night, when it’s dark and quiet, the unspoken becomes story, and our deepest fears can be shared. The stories in this collection scream in a night-time whisper.
Author Kirsty Logan’s prose is simultaneously poetic and blatantly, sometimes painfully, raw. Her characters admit to us things that (perhaps) should not, but must be, shared. The tales are an alluring, chilling knot to pick and tug and try to unravel; there’s an irresistible temptation to know more and to go further with the characters. It’s a nifty trick of Logan’s writing that we never want to turn away from her narrators. Instead, we want to walk with them and understand them.
The stories focus on insidious fears, especially of women — bodily danger (external and internal), the frailty and ferocity of motherhood, desperate love, expectations — and are thematically collected in groupings called ‘The House,’ The Child’ and ‘The Past.’
In between the tales are snippets of a first-person account by the (fictional) author, confessing what she endured as she wrote the stories on a retreat in Iceland. ‘I decided I was ready to write about my fears,’ she says. As we (and she) proceed through the book, she becomes more anxious and menacing. Is she a reliable narrator? Who can say? The way she speaks, if not what she says, is so true, you won’t care a whit.
The stories’ narrators are equally slippery, frequently leaving us to puzzle out their real experiences and motivations. The gleefully sinister ‘Girls are Always Hungry When all the Men are Bite-Size’ recounts the happenings at a seance with a point-of-view that alternates between the medium, a young girl at odds with her mother, and her attractive mark.
In the darkly comic (and oddly tender) ‘Last One to Leave Please Turn Off the Lights,’ we meet several women who try (tragically) to appease and please the people around them. With a nod to Scottish folklore, there’s a classic-style horror tale of a couple who accidentally invite a kelpie into their lives. In another, a young woman is forced to reconcile memories of her father with the reality of their lives. The gap, both slender and yawning that occurs between perception and real life, is a recurring theme that threads through the book.
Consumed as individual nuggets of fear and horror, the stories are very satisfying and unsettling. Together, they create an ominous, lush, cinematic experience that lingers like the scent of smoke in your hair or the morning sorrow of a half-remembered nightmare.
Pssst… A fantastic story by Kristy Logan can be found in Haunted Voices, an anthology of Gothic stories from Scotland, and she’s the author of the novel The Gracekeepers, featured in our podcast episode The Circus: Found Family and Daring Feats.
The dollhouse sat nicely on her shoulders — not too heavy, but reassuringly weighty. She piled her hair up and pinned it on top of her head so it filled the attic, holding the house steady. Her eyes lined up perfectly with the upstairs windows, the house only restricting her vision as much as a pair of spectacles. And if she wanted to speak, she could just open the front door. — Kirsty Logan, ‘Last One to Leave Please Turn Off the Lights’
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