The winning entry of National Flash Fiction Day’s inaugural novella-in-flash competition is a vivid splash of light striated with human emotions.
Joanna Campbell’s ‘Sybilla’ draws us into the seemingly peaceful world of a Berlin bookshop where shelves are stacked with books rescued from bombed homes. Campbell’s lyrical writing paints exquisite watercolours of each scene. In the first flash, aka chapter, ‘Stacking’, we get to know the routine of Lara and Felix, from the “blue cup and saucer” Lara keeps by the cash register, which Felix refills from “a steaming jug every hour”, to the rows they construct “of jacketless little books about trees and butterflies and canals” and the pile they build of books about “ships, viaducts and mountains.”
Adding to that the sounds of “coffee pouring and the hands of the grandfather clock juddering” and my first impression was that there’s nowhere else I’d rather spend time.
But outside in their city of ruined buildings, a wall is rising that divides West from East Berlin: “The Wall grows fast, casting the shop into shadow.”