When you’re reading a short story collection and the first story segues into the next, you know you’ve got something special in your hands.
The first story starts out as a train journey with the author mentioning details, with the final ones being Birch Trees.
The second story is, then, about Birch Trees. Namely an owner of a successful timber plant who decides to plant a birch tree forest in order to cut costs but ends up paying a bigger price. It’s offbeat, funny and is a jab at the paper industry. I love it when the first short story starts off strongly and this one is the equivalent of a trumpeting fanfare.
The world Thomas Chadwick portrays is a gently surreal one. ‘A Sense of Agency’ is about someone trying through stroll through a slowly flooding London, ‘Purchase’ is about a couple who make wrong purchases and then solve the problem in a unique way. ‘And the Glass Cold against his Face’ starts with a person hanging on to a window ledge and then he meets another person doing the same thing. All these stories are funny, some with a little twist at the end and some that just make you stare at the language used. Chadwick is also subtle and the stories tend to reveal their beauty after rereads.
Although there are a lot of highlights, the title story is the centerpiece ; a chef tries to bond with his dementia-ridden father, using a perfectly fried egg as a metaphor for their relationship.
If I do have one complaint, it is that I felt there could have been more short stories. 11 pieces of this caliber in just over 100 pages is not enough. Reading this collection brought about a thirst for more of Chadwick’s writing.
Above the Fat is an excellent collection of stories, as it sets the bar pretty high. Chadwick’s characters are neither bad or good but they manage to adapt to the situation they fall into. Not all of the stories end on a happy note and I’m glad the author did not take a conventional route. Lately I’ve been lucky with short stories but Above the Fat deserves to have wide acclaim.
Many thanks to Splice for providing a copy of Above the Fat in exchange for an honest review.