It gives me very great pleasure today to feature Salt Slow by Julia Armfield as the second of my reviews as shadow judge for The Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award this year. You’ll find more about the award here on Linda’s Book Bag and on The Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer’s Award website.
Published by Pan Macmillan imprint Picador, Salt Slow is available for purchase through the links here.
In her brilliantly inventive and haunting debut collection of stories, Julia Armfield explores bodies and the bodily, mapping the skin and bones of her characters through their experiences of isolation, obsession, love and revenge.
Teenagers develop ungodly appetites, a city becomes insomniac overnight, and bodies are diligently picked apart to make up better ones. The mundane worlds of schools and sleepy sea-side towns are invaded and transformed, creating a landscape which is constantly shifting to hold on to its inhabitants. Blurring the mythic and the gothic with the everyday, Salt Slow considers characters in motion – turning away, turning back or simply turning into something new entirely.
Winner of The White Review Short Story Prize 2018, Armfield is a writer of sharp, lyrical prose and tilting dark humour – Salt Slow marks the arrival of an ambitious and singular new voice.
My Review of Salt Slow
A collection of nine short stories.
Salt Slow is a beautifully written collection that surprises, shocks and entertains. Julia Armfield writes in such an innovative manner in Salt Slow that the ills, fears and desires of modern society are presented in startlingly mystical and yet totally believable ways. Her quality of prose left me reeling. I loved the poetic nature of her descriptions. In Salt Slow Julia Armfield manages to encapsulate precisely what the reader might have thought if only they had had the same glorious skill in creating the same new, descriptive compound words. To me this felt like living breathing writing that appealed to all my senses. This is a truly organic collection.
The themes of Salt Slow are universal but explored highly innovatively. We’re so used to a lack of sleep, for example, but having the concept personified in this wraith-like fashion is such a clever and affecting approach. Julia Armfield made me wonder what my own Sleep might look like and how it might behave. With body image, relationships, birth, death, nature, popular culture, relationships, love and obsession woven into the stories I’d defy any reader not to find something in Salt Slow that spoke directly to them through Julia Armfield’s writing.
I found I had to read Salt Slow in a measured way, fully to appreciate the incredible skill of the author. The stories are prescient with menace, sometimes bordering horror, with their frequently voodooistic, vampyric and violent undertones. Oblique literary references to Shakespeare, Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker for example, leave a feeling of disquiet and at times I felt my nerves almost supercharged by the intricate and all too convincing sensory descriptions. Almost against my will I felt a visceral response to Julia Armfield’s writing that perturbed me.
This collection truly isn’t like anything I’ve read before. The quality of imagination translated into fabulous prose is just wonderful. Salt Slow is unsettling, entertaining and beautifully written. I loved Julia Armfield’s collection and recommend it without reservation.
About Julia Armfield
Julia Armfield lives and works in London. She is a fiction writer and occasional playwright with a Masters in Victorian Art and Literature from Royal Holloway University. Her work has been published in Lighthouse, Analog Magazine, The White Review and Salt‘s Best British Short Stories 2019. She was commended in the Moth Short Story Prize 2017, longlisted for the Deborah Rogers Prize 2018 and is the winner of The White Review Short Story Prize 2018.