Friday 16 February 2024

Review by Paul Taylor-McCartney of "Hollow Daughter" by Katherine Hetzel


Readers already familiar with Hetzel’s previous output as author of children’s fantasy fiction, including the epic The Chronicles of Issraya series of books, will find much to enjoy in this collection of short stories that are aimed at adult readers but also draw their inspiration from the fantastical. 

The title of the collection, Hollow Daughter, is not only the story that opens proceedings, but also provides a unifying theme for the eclectic array of flash fiction and longer pieces that follow, chiefly, girls and women who face extraordinary situations that either serve to empower them or leave them at the mercy of more powerful forces. 

The collection contains a dizzying array of characters, settings and narrative styles, many of which offer the reader a mere glimpse of an alternative universe. Hetzel’s trademark economy of form is able to relay both an entire society and a turning point in a character’s much larger story. There are the familiar shades of Atwood’s Gilead in the title story, "Hollow Daughter," whereby a parent seeks the help of Mother Alish when her daughter fails to menstruate. "'We need your help, Mother.'” The Mother indicated the daughter. 'If her situation continues, there will be accusations laid against her, that she’s preventing her own fruitfulness.'" Hetzel leads the reader to many a satisfying cliff-hanger, shown to devastating effect in the title story, but also elsewhere in the affecting "The Pink Feather Boa Incident," "The Memory of Amelia Maybelove" and "Red Moon Rising." The last of these, along with the stunning "Miss Aveline’s Summerhouse," are so convincing and well-executed they hint at a potential future direction for Hetzel to pursue – the full-length ghost story.

I thoroughly recommend this collection. Hetzel’s stories surprise and delight in equal measure but are sure to leave readers reflecting on the nature of female identity and power, in its myriad forms. I look forward to seeing where Hetzel takes her readers next as she develops her skills as a writer of quality adult fantasy fiction. Any number of universes, as presented in this dazzling collection, would prove ripe for exploration. 

About the reviewer
Dr. Paul Taylor-McCartney is a writer, researcher and lecturer living in Cornwall. His interests include dystopian studies, children’s literature and initial teacher education. His poetry, short fiction and academic articles have appeared in print and electronic form, including: Aesthetica, The Birmingham Journal of Language and Literature, Education in Practice & Writing in Practice (National Association of Writers in Education), Dyst: Literary Journal, Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, The Crank and Bandit Fiction. His debut children’s novel, Sisters of the Pentacle, was recently published by Hermitage Press.

No comments:

Post a Comment