WILD FEARLESS CHESTS
Mandy Beaumont HACHETTE, $29
Mandy Beaumont brings a clear, poetry-honed voice to 21 depictions of loneliness, survival and self-discovery in this debut collection. While many of the short stories take place in unidentified places, mostly urban or suburban, elsewhere the cavernous blue skies and persistent heat of her home town Brisbane magnify the emptiness that her characters — mostly women — confront. Like a Brisbane summer, the tone can be relentless: motifs repeating; narratives unbroken by dialogue; the stories blending into a melancholic haze heavy with unhealthy relationships and damaged families. Drowning in Thick Air and the title story are among the standouts. One of the longest, Bright Light and All Brilliance, offers a refreshing break as it plays with form and rhythm. Similarly, He Tells Her of the Beautiful Lines, and elsewhere, speculative brushes aim for fresh perspective, but sadly for the characters in their honestly drawn and brutal misery, there is little escape in here.
JASON NAHRUNG VERDICT: Sharp slices of life