Book Review: Black Juice by Margo Lanagan (short stories)


Published by HarperCollins 2005

Greetings Brave Adventurers,

I’ve been ploughing through some longer works for the past few months, and I felt like I just needed to read something lighter this week.

By lighter, I mean only in terms of physical size, because Black Juice by Margo Lanagan could not easily be described as light reading. Even though it appears in the Young Adult section, this little 200-page book of short stories packs a punch, and is as dark as its name implies. This is fantasy, but expect no elves or cute dancing fairies (oh, there are fairies, but not as you’d imagine).

Death features heavily as both a theme and an event around which her stories evolve. Her first short story deals with an execution. Then comes a betrayal, a shooting spree, a jail-break, a wedding (of sorts), a death, a funeral, and a plague of monsters.

Each tale is as haunting as it is beautiful. Lanagan has a rare talent of teasing the wondrous from the mundane, catapulting the reader into bizarre, unusual, confronting and often uncomfortable worlds. Her writing tips you off centre, leaves you bewildered, clutching the little clues she offers like Hansel and Gretel morsels, inexorably leading you to the witch’s house.

Lanagan does not simply hand you a tale to swallow whole. She makes you work for it, but oh, it is so worth it. A fabulous book by a truly gifted Australian talent.

Ten out of ten short dragons, with a sting in their tails.

10 dragons

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