This luminescent collection of short stories and flash fictions offers up Tania Hershman’s unmistakable blend of the poetic, the uncanny and the deeply human. Drawing from a background in physics and a fascination with other sciences, Hershman explores our predilections and imperfections with effortless eloquence. Through her writing you’ll feel yourself at one with nuns, researchers and divers alike, not to mention gas molecules and eerie little immortal girls.
I often see colours when reading fiction, and Tania’s tales in this collection are shot through with shimmering shades – pools of silver, midnight blue, aquamarine and ultramarine are gorgeously offset by threads of vermilion and gold.
Each of the tales examines, in its own way, what it means to be human, and the potential kindnesses and cruelties lying in wait both around and within us. While many lead us into laboratories, other sneak us into more unexpected places of moral and quizzical reflection, sometimes under cover of darkness.
Treading with care among Hershman’s phosphorescent phrasing, you’ll feel like a collaborator, sharing in her protagonists’ discoveries.
Standout characters are numerous: a nun seeking meaning through biochemistry, a “nicotine-addicted child” offering warring soldiers a detour, Carly, within whom time wanders “like insects”, a boy grown into a man remembering the flavours of ice cream, and scientist after scientist after scientist.
The lyrical quality of Hershman’s prose is echoed in the rhythm of the collection’s arrangement; divided by semi-themed sections and shuffled with care to balance brief, intense flashes with more sustained contemplations.
Birds, sea creatures, mice and cells with uncommon sentience hum in quiet corners, and a faint glimmer of loneliness laces the shadows.
A little beyond the central pages of the collection hovers the story There Is No-One In The Lab Tonight But Mice. On the surface it seems whimsical – a playful fantasy – but here we find the heart of Hershman’s curiosity, and a perfect truth that curls between the lines in many of the pieces here. The knowledge of science united with the creativity of art and the curiosity of humanity could be an unstoppable, infinitely positive force.
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