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Hair Side, Flesh Side
Helen Marshall
ChiZine Press, 250 pages

Hair Side, Flesh Side
Helen Marshall
Helen Marshall's poetry and fiction have been published in ChiZine, Paper Crow, Abyss & Apex and the long-running Tesseracts anthology series among others She released a collection of poems entitled Skeleton Leaves from Kelp Queen Press in 2011. Currently, she is pursuing a Ph. D in medieval studies at the University of Toronto, for which she spends a great deal of her time staring at fourteenth-century manuscripts.

Helen Marshall Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

Here comes Helen Marshall, a new writer endowed with an uncommonly vivid imagination, with her stunning debut collection Hair Side, Flesh Side, featuring fifteen tales suspended between the fantastic and the horrific, each one representing somehow a different body part.

Marshall's stories are never banal, although, predictably, not all are quite successful. She can write beautifully and she knows it. So much so that sometimes she let her imaginative power overcome the plausibility and solidity of her narrative and sometimes she becomes so smug and narcissistic about her prose that the reader may remain just perplexed. On the other hand when she's at the top of her game and in full control of her qualities Marshall is simply extraordinary. To prove the point is enough to consider the best stories in the volume.

The eerie and fascinating "Sanditon" is an outstanding piece of fiction in which a lost manuscript by Jane Austen gradually appears on the inside of a young woman's skin.

"The Old and the New" is a compelling tale of love and loss, set in the creepy atmosphere of a catacomb full of bones located in the heart of Paris.

In the highly original and downright weird "Blessed" we get acquainted with a peculiar family arrangement and a little girl receiving the body of a martyr as a birthday present, while in the excellent "Pieces of Broken Things" we witness the end of a love story, deconstructed into a bunch of objects and memories.

"The Mouth Open" is an enigmatic, riveting tale where a lonesome Canadian follows his sister to Croatia to meet her husband's family in a delirium of food, drink and weirdness.

In the disturbing "The Art of Dying" a woman keeps dying and re-living in a kaleidoscope of people, facts and feelings. "White Dead Men" is an enticing, very atypical love story or, rather, a story where sexual perversion turns finally into love and where love and death dance their endless dance.

Marshall's potential as a writer is enormous. Provided she learns to make the best of it there are no limits to what she can achieve. I am looking forward to it and so should you.

Copyright © 2013 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.

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