Book Club: A Portable Shelter by Kirsty Logan
Climb in, my tiny fish-catcher, and I will take you on a journey.
So, Kirsty and I have started a book club. And I - as ambitious as it sounds - have decided to publish a book review for each and every selection that we read as part of said book club. Although only one a book a month, I think this will be quite the challenge as book reviews take a lot of time and thought to write. But this brings us to today's review and the book club read for September: the brilliant A Portable Shelter by Kirsty Logan. This beautiful book is Logan's second release of 2015 -- you may have seen her debut novel The Gracekeepers floating around your local bookshop. However, A Portable Shelter goes back to her short-storytelling roots, set amongst a magical rural Scotland.
First, can we just take a moment to appreciate how gorgeous this book is? It is impeccably published in a beautiful textured naked hardback with illustrations (by Liz Myhill) and silver foiling. The limited edition hardback (only 1000 copies!) is published by small Scottish house ASLS. and next year a paperback will be published by, the more readily available, Harvill Secker who published The Gracekeepers.
Despite being a collection of short stories, in the most wonderful of fashion, these stories come together to create an overarching tale of two new mothers speaking 'truths' to their restless unborn child. This is my absolute favourite kind of short story collection. These stories are 'tales of circuses and stargazing, selkie fishermen and domestic werewolves, child-eating witches and broken-toothed dragons'. Most of the chapters include elements of magical realism that are expertly dropped in to the most mundane-seeming of situations. Also, I was surprised to find that I appreciated every single one of the included stories which is something that has seldom ever happens with other collections. I did still have favourites and least favourites, but I cannot say there were any that I didn't at least enjoy. My favourite was probably 'The Mother of Giants' which tells of a small village with a resident witch that calls upon and claims named newborn babies.
Once there lived a woman who had two husbands. In the evenings, she walked alone on the shore, between her husbands. She walked with one foot in the sand, one foot in the sea.
I really adored Logan's descriptions, especially those of households and landscapes. I found it really easy to visualise her settings, something that I find quite the art when you're working within such a short word count. The accompanying illustrations worked perfectly with these descriptions. Overall, I am really impressed with the collection considering it is my first read of Logan's work. I did also purchase The Gracekeepers so I'm hoping to get that in before the end of the month, so I can see how she deals with the longer form. It's definitely worth checking out A Portable Shelter if you can get your hands on it, even if you have to wait until next year's paperback. Alternatively you can source a copy of her first short story collection The Rental Heart and Other Stories, that I'm also excited to explore.