Hold Your Fire

Chloe Wilson

Hold Your Fire
Simon & Schuster Australia
3 March 2021

Hold Your Fire

Chloe Wilson

The title story takes us into the cold war of a contemporary family: a missile-making mother doubts her husband’s guts and the steel of her son, until a playground incident escalates and brings them into the most surprising of alliances.

Needle-sharp, effortlessly surprising and beautifully controlled, every tale will pin you to the page. A young couple move into a house in which there’s been a recent murder, and fall under the spell of their peculiar, commanding neighbours. Two sisters are determined to detoxify themselves into perfection. A diver pushes herself and those around her to higher and higher leaps. Interspersed with these are lightning strikes of flash fiction: we glimpse a leopard in the apartment next door; plants grown out of a strange and miraculous soil; the spirit of a girl who’s been thrown down a well.

At each turn, Chloe Wilson offers a unique insight, a tear in the veil of our moral certainties. Her stories strip away the varnish of our decency to reveal the raw mechanics beneath.


Chloe Wilson’s brilliant debut collection of short stories, Hold Your Fire, is an absolute delight to read. Contained within you’ll find a mix of witty and deadpan flash fiction and short stories of varying lengths, all of them connected by a shared sense of peculiarity and Wilson’s matter-of-fact delivery.

I’m a particular fan of ‘Arm’s Length’, a flash-fiction story that proves a title really can say it all. Being a gardener, I also delighted in the gorgeous, descriptive prose Wilson wields in ‘Blood Bag’, which explores the lengths to which people will go to protect their vegetable patch. Some of the other stories feature two sisters with similarly vague digestive issues who hope the ultimate detox will cure all, and a couple whose upward mobility in the property market is made possible by a gruesome murder that slashes the price of the home they want to purchase. In the title story, which was originally published in Granta, Wilson touches on career choices, family relationships, more gut issues and playground dynamics. I empathised with our protagonist here, as she processes thoughts that could be seen as unmotherly or vindictive but are actually just raw and real.

One of the pleasures of Wilson’s short stories is that they’re not shackled by structural rules. You can turn the page expecting more, only to find you’ve read a burst of micro-fiction. Alternately, an arc that alludes to a natural conclusion might take an unexpected turn, causing you to eagerly race ahead to see what Wilson has in store for you. This collection of well-crafted tales presents the reader with repeated opportunities to question the divide between how we present ourselves to others, and what we’re really, secretly thinking but perhaps dare not speak out loud.

Suzanne Steinbruckner is a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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