I always face the same dilemma when I am opening a book of short stories: whether to read them all in one go, and risk the overall experience blurring the impact of each one or progress more slowly, even stopping after every one for a minimum couple of hours, to savour the individual merits that may otherwise be overlooked. With Here Until August by Josephine Rowe there was no conscious choice. From first to last, each of the ten stories was so powerful, eloquent and beautifully crafted – and so complementary to each other – that I just couldn’t wait, hunkering down and enjoying them in one, all-too-brief sitting.
The stories reveal textured worlds where people are on the periphery of a society; voluntarily and enforced: an agoraphobic woman in France, transfixed by the relentless violence of conflict oversees, and the dog which rescues her; the 33-year-old man who returns to his mother’s home village after her death and finds the weight of her presence overwhelming; a couple, for whom an old decaying Beta tape of them making love when they first met, has become increasingly distancing.
Sometimes, but not always, the people are out of their depth. They are migrants and emigrants. The temporarily distanced and the irrevocably estranged. There is sadness, loss and trauma, acceptance, resignation, understanding. Time is fluid. Memories ambiguous.The powerful narrative is matched by the dazzling prose, and an deep overarching sense of compassion.
It’s hard not to have favourites in a collection of short stories, one or two that particularly resonate, explicitly evoking shared experience or emotion. Looking back over the individual gems that make up Here Until August, there were no favourites, except them all. This is an amazing book on so many levels.
Here Until August by Josephine Rowe is published by Black Inc. Rowe was born in Queensland, Australia. Her short stories have appeared widely in Australia and internationally. Her debut novel A Loving, Faithful Animal was long listed for the Miles Franklin Award, and in 2017 she was named Best Young Novelist by the Sydney Morning Herald. She has held fellowships at Stanford University and the International Writing Programme at the University of Iowa.