Review of The Shivering Ground & Other Stories by Sara Barkat

In this generous and surprising collection, enigmatic mysteries intrude upon an elegiac setting. 

A precocious protagonist discovers a dislocation from the every day. Media intrudes in multifarious forms, and inanimate objects or nature blend with the human elements in a well-orchestrated interplay of fantasy and gothic revelations.
They seethe with cognitive dissonance and pique with magical realism.
Written by an illustrator who brought to life the classic: “The Yellow Wallpaper”. I notice some eerie stylings, and influence from the dark short story which must have meant so much to this author. One of the primary concerns of many stories appears to be cinematic, or atmospheric, though they intrigue on the sentence level, seducing with their rich imagery and unexpected subtexts. They are tightly edited, deeply strange, bizarre, and uncanny all while striking me as vaguely familiar, like places visited in a dream. With literary references peeking from behind the scenes, at times domestic, and at others otherworldly, they will live long in memory.

“Now the trees beyond the window, like mourners, bent beneath the fury of the storm.” This quote will give you a taste of the suggestive figurative language suffusing the narratives. Enigmatic beasts,
exquisite use of rare and esoteric vocabulary, a vivid conjuring of unexpected wonders – all these things properly fit into what you will find here, this menagerie of quirky stories, but no descriptor can properly convey the breathless subtlety lurking under every line. Prepare for a dark descent into fantastically skewed worlds fraught with visions derived from an abundant understanding of dreamy fantasy. They are clever, inventive, and haunting. The author even tries out the second person perspective in the third story, and makes use of a host of other literary techniques to add flair and flavor to the already resplendent writing. While a couple of the stories might ring as inconclusive, the majority of them are shiver-inducing, if not for their terror-strewn settings, then for their hypodermic-sharp symbolism. The unnerving humanness of mannikins, for instance, has never failed to creep me out. The inner whorls of the rose, the trickle of moonlight through a cracked window, faintly uttered sounds amid the gathering shadows. If you appreciate and delight in these things, then this collection will tickle your senses, set your imagination working like a live wire, jumpstart your lucid dreams and leave you reeling.

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