‘Half Sick of Shadows’ by Kirsty Logan

Another collection where I truly could have chosen any story, but this one spoke to me the most. A couple arrive at Camelot theme park with their young daughter with the intention of leaving her there. The sense of dread as I read this was also joined by a sense of understanding and recognition. This story, then, is a painful read for me. It felt as if Logan had seen the darkest thoughts in my mind and plucked them out onto the page. It makes me think of every time I’ve dismissed my daughter when she wanted to play, every time I’ve just wanted to be left alone, every time I’ve thought I can’t cope with this anymore. “- Was she really that bad? Maybe if we’d tried harder with her. Everyone else manages it.”I’m not sure I’m supposed to relate to the cruel parents in this story but I do. In my darkest days, deep in post-natal depression, would I have left my own daughter in a magical abandoned theme park if someone had given me the option? The answer to that, as the title of the collection alludes to, is not something I would dare speak in daylight. 

first published in Things We Say in the Dark, Harvill Secker, 2019

‘The Ghost Club’ by Kirsty Logan

I first came across Kirsty Logan when I read her debut collectionThe Rental Heart, a queer reimagining of fairy tales, and have devoured all her stories full of magic and queer women. In A Portable Shelter Logan cleverly links her short stories through a framing narrative, a Scheherazade-like tale of two women, Liska and Ruth, who take turns telling stories in secret to their child growing inside Ruth. There are stories of selkies and fisherman of lighthouses and witches but it is the final story that I have never been able to forget. The premise is a sort of support group for people who see ghosts of loved ones and who want to disprove their existence. It’s a thoughtful and sensitive exploration of what it’s like to grieve and the role that death plays in the lives of the living. Logan writes, “If no one ever died, maybe we would never learn what it meant to miss them.” That this is the last story in the collection is fitting, a death to balance Ruth and Liska new baby, a poignant reminder to question how much we can prepare our loved ones for the harsher realities of the world. What portable shelters can we carry with us as protection? How safe can you make the world? How much of death do you need to know to truly live?

Collected in A Portable Shelter, Vintage, 2015

‘Tiger Palace’ by Kirsty Logan

This story has stayed with me because it is all about possibility. As it says in its last line, “…stories can have any ending you like.” Tiger Palace is a re-imagining of the Beauty and the Beast fairy story. A beautiful but cruel empress lives in a palace in the middle of an impenetrable forest populated by man-eating tigers, waiting for the arrival of a man who will free her. But what if the traveller who arrives is not a man, but a woman, and what if they might both become beasts?  What if…? In this, as in her other alternative fairytales, Logan explores different ways of living for all of us, whatever our gender or sexuality. Her stories are about cycles of life and second chances. Rich stories, to give us hope.

(First published in Diva and included in The Rental Heart, published by Salt, 2014)