In Bluebeard’s First Wife, Ha explores big cities and small rural towns where ambition, familial responsibilities, and expectations of marriage coalesce to reveal hidden sides to neighbors, wives, and husbands. The ordinary lives of middle class peoples in such cities and towns gain fairy-tale quality as Janet Hong’s translation renders Ha’s uneasy stories with haunting details and precise prose.
By way of the supernatural, Saunders splices through the content of history textbooks and captures the emotional authenticity that factual accounts will never be able to capture — the gray area that gives space to grief and longing and love.
The collection undertakes—with some success—the difficult job of creating stories that delight while carrying unsettling premises and undertones.
But My Dark Vanessa is not so much a retelling as it is an echo of Lolita, giving a voice to young victims like Dolores Haze who are trapped and abused by those wielding authority over them.
This emotional tug of Chiang’s stories is surprising; his style of writing in the collection is precise and straightforward, almost distant. Oftentimes, its tone can feel more like a scientific documentary or research project than a piece of fiction.
Spaghetti. A missing cat. Mysterious phone calls. Rossini on the radio. A napping protagonist. If I attempted to summarize Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle to you, it would be as though I had plopped the pieces of an entire Liberty jigsaw puzzle in your lap.