I received a copy of The Goddess of Macau from the publisher, Fly on the Wall Press. The decision to read was my own, and this review forms my honest opinion.
This short story collection paints complex characters, Macau myths and magic, all set in the former Portuguese colony of Macau. Macau was one of the first European settlements in Asia (founded in 1557) and over some 450 years a unique Macanese culture developed, one that fused Europe and China to create an individual identity which, sadly, is in decline in the twenty-first century. Graeme Hall is a talented storyteller and his work has been published in English, Portuguese and Chinese.
I was apprehensive and excited all at once to read this collection. I love to read fiction which explores other cultures, particularly if there is a historical element involved, and the concept of Macau (of which I knew absolutely nothing) tying this collection together was appealing. However, I do have a love/hate relationship with short stories. I too often find myself scratching my head when reading them, left wondering what it was all about, and yet equally unwilling to go back and figure it out because I never found myself hooked in the first place. In my opinion, it’s a tough format to get right. It reminds me a little of the awkward 200 metre race on Sports Day. Too far to sprint flat out and too short to pace as you would a long distance race. It’s a special type of pace and attention to detail which makes for the perfect short story – and one which I cannot seem to crack in my own writing.
And so I have all kinds of envy for Graeme Hall, the author of The Goddess of Macau. I have never been so engrossed by a short story collection before, usually finding myself picking up/putting down easily at the end of every story. However, when reading a story is like unwrapping the most gorgeous of gifts, I found myself reading the next as easily as if it were the next chapter of a novel.
The stories are based in Macau and offer up a glimpse of their culture, but they are heavily focused on the human element, dealing with universal themes which connect us all. The characters are so well drawn that I found myself quickly pulled into their story – a real skill. The storytelling is impeccable, and I have nothing but admiration laced with intense envy for the beauty of this collection. My only very slight criticism is that I would have loved to have known more about the culture, and the history in particular. I feel as if my appetite has been whetted, and I now want more.
This is without doubt the most gorgeous collection of short stories I have ever read. A book I will be rereading over and over again (half in the vain hope that the ability to write in this format will transfer to me through some sort of visual osmosis). If you enjoy short stories, or if you’d like to try reading them – I highly recommend this collection. Sublime writing, wonderful stories all set to the most fascinating of hybrid cultures.
The Goddess of Macau was released on 21 August 2020, and is available to buy now. If you are looking to buy, please consider supporting this lovely indie publisher by buying from them direct! Buy now!