Salt Slow is, to say the least, a unique read, and quite difficult to categorize. The short stories have a definite fantasy element to them, and can run the gamut from magical realism to full-blown horror. Armfield’s
writing is downright mesmerizing, and visceral to the extreme. There is a sharp focus on women’s experiences and a theme of transformation.
Mantis, the first story in the collection, sets the tone for the rest of the book. The publisher’s synopsis mentions a woman turning into an insect, and this is a reference to the opening story. The young woman in question is navigating puberty, and there is a distinct double-layered, allegorical element to the story. Puberty can be horrifying under the best of circumstances, with once familiar bodies taking on an alien quality, and Armfield takes this concept to an extreme in Mantis.
The Great Awake was probably my favorite story in the collection. Sleep suddenly becomes a corporeal being for people living in busy cities in this story. Those living in rural areas seem to be unaffected, but gradually, city dwellers are losing the ability to sleep as a ghost-like entity steps out of them in the night and proceeds to devote most of its time to antagonizing its designated person. Armfield explores how the extra hours awake would impact people’s daily lives, as well as how those left out of the phenomenon would be affected by these societal changes.
Salt Slow is the kind of book that sticks with you well after you’ve finished reading. Armfield’s writing is evocative and powerful. This is Julia Armfield’s debut book and shows such incredible promise. I can’t wait
to see what she writes next!
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GBC Reader Reviews