Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Things We Lost in the Fire

Things We Lost in the Fire / Mariana Enriquez
trans. from the Spanish by Megan McDowell
London: Hogarth Press, 2017, c2016.
208 p.

I finished this right at the end of August; I read it in audiobook format and had been listening while working on other things, bit by bit. I think this is a good way to listen to stories, you can let one sit before tackling the next. 

However, not being able to skim over some parts of this book like I would have if I was reading it means that there are some strong images that I wish I wasn't remembering! This is a set of stories that are really on the edge of horror. About as horrory as I get, anyhow. 

There are haunted houses, missing children (lots about missing and murdered children), mysterious figures only seen by one person, political danger, marital discord, and more. The stories themselves are haunting, some more poetic and some much more graphically grotesque -- I wasn't as fond of those ones for my own tastes. All of the stories combine some kind of innocence with the realities of adulthood, politics and history, and the ever-present threat of violence. 

There are a couple of stories that are more political, which were very interesting -- looking at the history of Argentina and its long echoes. They are also ones that are more realistic, comparatively speaking. My favourite stories were the ones with children as the characters; one in which two siblings see the disappearance of a friend in a haunted house, but nobody believes them, and one in which two adolescent girls try to wreak revenge on a hotel owner who fired one's father, but end up terrorized by ghostly apparitions of past governmental thugs. They are both finely tuned episodes in which children see things that aren't believed, and both are strong narratives. There is also a story about women rebelling against rampant domestic violence by setting themselves on fire -- very disturbing and powerful.

I've seen this book compared to Shirley Jackson, and I can see that in some of the stories. There is a lurking horror around every corner of daily life in this collection, and if you like that kind of tense, spooky reading, you may also like this collection. I found it really even -- each story stands up, and there are many elements to admire in their structure and narrative styles. I was taken by a few of the stories in particular, but I am not sure that I'll read her next one; as mentioned, horror is not really my genre, and although real horror readers would scoff at my characterization, I did find this quite disturbing in parts. An excellent written collection, though, and one that I would recommend if this is your kind of reading. 


  1. I enjoyed this one as well, though I agree that some of the stories are quite disturbing. So well written though.

    1. Yes! Such talent in her style & themes. I am a little squeamish so some of it was 'yikes' but really powerful storytelling nonetheless


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