This month’s book tip is brought to you by Alex Maxwell of La Biblioteka in Sheffield.
One of the privileges of owning a small bookshop is that small presses send you their fantastic offerings a bit ahead of time. My curse is that due to the trappings of attempting to run said bookshop, as well as a growing household, through plague and war, most of these books end up yellowing on my “shelf of guilt” behind the counter, or in stacks in the living room at home.
I’ve found the surest way to continue my reading streak is a slimline novel, where I can be through in a reading session or two carved out at the end of the week. A glance at some of this year’s longlists would suggest we are living through a purple patch of short fiction, surely a product of canny publishing to sate our shredded attention of the last two years.
You may add to this list Cold Enough for Snow (Fitzcarraldo, New Directions) by Australian author Jessica Au, clocking in at just over 100 pages. In which: a mother and daughter travel to meet in contemporary Japan. They visit art galleries to look at radical art. They stop in restaurants to avoid monsoon rains. They spend time in cafes talking about the past. This is a book with a small P plot.
And yet. Here you have 100-pages of the most beautiful prose, just plush enough to carry you along for 20 pages at a time. Just long enough to get to that point where one story, one moment starts to expand, teasing toward other ideas, alluding to buried secrets and repressed memories that have the reader digging. One might get through a first read and question the reliability of the narrators. Or is it just one? Is the mother even there, or just remembered? Ultimately, neither they nor us may find what they are looking for. But Au’s novel makes a delicate case for acceptance, just as people are, for the moments they are together.