My enormous thanks to Zoe Turner of Comma Press for sending me a copy of the short story anthology Safely Gathered In by Sarah Schofield in return for an honest review. It gives me enormous pleasure to share that review today. I also spoke about Safely Gathered In recently online here too.
Published by Comma Press on 4th November 2021, Safely Gathered In is available for purchase through the links here.
Safely Gathered In
A woman grows increasingly annoyed by her husband’s emails, offering advice and reminders even months after his death…
A taxidermist dreams of preserving one of his clients after she takes him out for a coffee…
A grieving nurse is troubled by her daughter’s fascination with The Iron Lady…
In Safely Gathered In, Sarah Schofield probes at the heart of what forms us and what we, in turn, form. The stories collected here expose the spaces that words often fail to reach and examine how objects – both manmade and natural – can reflect the darkest manifestations of grief and disconnection.
From the child acting out a family betrayal in the comfort of her dolls house, to the sister making wind-up toys from the dead birds she finds on her doorstep, this debut collection ventures into the surreal and delivers a sense of unease that leaves us questioning why we gather the things we do.
My Review of Safely Gathered In
A volume of 17 short stories.
I’m not quite sure how to review Safely Gathered In as it is quite unlike other short story collections I’ve read. There’s a slightly surreal, unworldly quality to it with a kaleidoscopic blend of the prosaic, the dystopian, the futuristic, the unusual and the ordinariness of life, all melded into gorgeous prose that I found quite astounding. Safely Gathered In is beautifully written, intelligently constructed and utterly mesmerising. Direct speech feels natural and convincing, settings are evocatively depicted and characters spring to life in just a few words through Sarah Schofield’s wonderfully balanced writing.
In each story contained in Safely Gathered In there’s an intense microcosm of life and the emotions we experience, frequently projected through the objects with which we surround ourselves. Sarah Schofield’s final sentences in every story are a physical blow to the heart and soul of the reader as she distils all the meaning and emotion of the story into one stunning conclusion. Many of the emotions are on the darker spectrum of grief and loneliness with a longing for what the characters have lost or are searching for, making for a highly affecting read. Alongside the variety of voices and points of view, this has the effect of drawing in the reader and making them feel, as well as understand, how the characters themselves feel.
I’m aware I haven’t properly articulated what Safely Gathered In is, but that is because it’s so difficult to pin down. The collection is about grief, desire, ambition, loss, longing, unrealistic expectation, family, friendships, marriage and relationships. It’s about our past, our present and our future. It’s about the importance of the objects in our lives and the futility of attaching so much importance to them. I think it best to say Safely Gathered In is about humanity and you should read it. I thought it was excellent.
About Sarah Schofield
Sarah Schofield’s stories have been published in Lemistry, Bio-Punk, Thought X, Beta Life, Spindles, Conradology and The New Abject (all Comma Press), Wall: Nine Stories from Edge Hill Writers (EHUP), Best of British Short Stories 2020 (Salt), Spilling Ink Flash Fiction Anthology, Back and Beyond Arts Publication, Litfest’s The Language of Footprints, Synaesthesia Magazine, Lakeview International Journal, Woman’s Weekly and others. She has been shortlisted for The Bridport Prize and the Guardian Travel Writing Competition and has won the Orange New Voices Prize, Writer’s Inc and The Calderdale Fiction Prize.
Sarah is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Edge Hill University and runs writing courses and workshops in a variety of community settings. Her debut short story collection, Safely Gathered In, is published by Comma Press in 2021.