Before I began blogging I rarely read short stories unless I was going to have to teach them in the dim and distant past. In recent times, however, I’ve begun to realise what a wonderful experience it can be to delve into a short story anthology and I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to Dave Borrowdale at Reflex Press for a copy of Witches Sail in Eggshells by Chloe Turner in return for an honest review.
Witches Sail in Eggshells was published by Reflex Press on 11th June 2019 and is available for purchase here where you can also read a sample story.
Witches Sail in Eggshells
‘Witches sail in eggshells,’ I heard Meg say from behind me, and I looked back. She was pounding the shells, hard, with the palm of her hand on the flat of a knife.
Bewitched by ‘the sort of girl who’d batter your heart like a thrush with a snail on a stone’, a woman overlooks the one who really loves her.
A seaside community is overwhelmed when the sea begins to expel its life forms. But the villagers would rather raise the sea wall, whatever the cost, than confront their past mistakes.
A woman’s beloved garden withers as the baby inside her flourishes. When the pregnancy reaches its end, the progeny is not as she expects.
A widower feels like his life might have been a quiet nothing, but he’ll end it with the flight he’s always dreamed of. Even that fails, but instead of indignity, in the attempt he finds peace.
Perceptive, intriguing, and beautifully told, Chloe Turner’s debut collection explores the themes of love, loss, the little ways we let each other down, and how we can find each other again.
My Review of Witches Sail in Eggshell
Seventeen short stories of life, love and longing.
When I picked up this volume I had intended to read one of the stories from Witches Sail in Eggshells each evening, but as soon as I’d read Hagstone, the first in Chloe Turner’s collection, I was so enchanted I had to devour them all. It was if the hagstone of that first tale had cast a spell and I was unable to put down this remarkable book. I have only one complaint about Witches Sail in Eggshells and that is that any aspirations I might have about writing have been completely undermined by the exquisite beauty of Chloe Turner’s language. It is unparalleled and very few writers I have read create such grace and magic in their work.
Whilst I imagine many hours have gone in to crafting and polishing these literary gems, they never feel contrived but instead are silky smooth and extraordinary examples of writing at its most perfect. Each one, without exception, left me reeling, intrigued and mesmerised so that I felt them internally as much as read them. I know this will sound probably bonkers (and I may have been affected by the magical realism of some of the stories) but I felt as if I wanted to peel the words from the pages and shower in them to get them closer to me in the most essential way I could. I read passages aloud because I felt they were more like poetry than prose – they are luminous with meaning and emotion.
Each story is very different from all the others with action and events totally belying the brevity of length. I discovered entire lifetimes and traveled time and geographical distance as I read. There are themes of love, loss, spite, revenge, power and much, much more, providing a narrative for every reader and every change in their emotional state. Yet at the same time, there are links and echoes that make for an immersive and rewarding reading experience. There’s something almost antediluvian, for example, in the references to water and the sea that pepper these stories because Chloe Turner has captured the very essence of humanity in its most raw state; we all come from water.
I have been sitting some time, trying to find words to convey what it is about Witches Sail in Eggshells that I have found so gloriously moving and astounding, but have come to realise I don’t have the vocabulary to express how I feel about Chloe Turner’s stories. I am genuinely thrilled to have discovered her writing because my life has been enriched by it. Whether you’re a reader who wants to be entertained or a writer who wants to hone their craft, I cannot recommend Witches Sail in Eggshells highly enough. It’s magnificent.
About Chloe Turner
Chloe Turner grew up in London and then Bath, attending St Paul’s Girls’ School, London and Clifton College, Bristol. After reading Archaeology and Anthropology at Churchill College, Cambridge, she qualified as a chartered accountant. She now lives in a village near Stroud, Gloucestershire, with her family and some chickens. Chloe won the Fresher Prize for short story in 2017, and has twice been awarded the Local Prize in the Bath Short Story Award. ‘Waiting for the Runners’ was selected for inclusion in the Best British Short Stories 2018 anthology (Salt Publishing).
You can follow Chloe on Twitter @TurnerPen2Paper for more information.