Review: Her Body & Other Parties

THE PLOT: Her Body & Other Parties is a compilation of short stories by Carmen Maria Machado. All of the stories have a fantastical, other-worldly element, and they focus on female (mostly lesbian) protagonists.

RATING: This book only gets three stars because I didn’t enjoy reading it. I appreciate the accomplished writing style and the literary experimentation, but I kept thinking I might give up and not finish it. There must’ve been something that pulled me through to the end, perhaps a sense of curiosity about whether the last story would tie everything together, so it was interesting… but it wasn’t fun to read.

GOOD BITS: My favourite stories were ‘The Resident’, ‘Eight Bites’ ‘Inventory’, ‘The Husband Stitch’ and ‘Real Women Have Bodies’ (in that order). I probably enjoyed ‘The Resident’ because it was long-form, with detailed characters and direct speech, so it was the most novelistic. These stories all revolved around a central female issue, such as eating and women’s bodies, which probably attracted me to them more.

NOT SO GOOD BITS: ‘Especially Heinous’ is an experimental story based on the TV show ‘Law and Order’. Despite being a fan of the show, I found it way too long and hard to read. It had an important theme about violent crimes and rapes inflicted on women, particularly teenage girls, and the toll this takes on the detectives. There was a creative dimension about mental health and parallel lives. However, it was too laborious to get through.

OVERALL: The subject matter is compelling, the writing is very accomplished and the descriptions of nature were evocative and reminded me of Lisa Taddeo. Freakily, two of the stories, ‘Real Women have Bodies’ and ‘Inventory’ featured viruses that were spreading over the world, which was spooky and apt. As a writer, I’m glad I read it because there’s lots of food for thought in how you tell a story etc. But it was a difficult book to read.

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