Hot Little Hands

Abigail Ulman

Hot Little Hands
Penguin Books Australia
25 February 2015

Hot Little Hands

Abigail Ulman

This exceptional collection of stories is about young women of different ages, from their early teens to their late twenties, coming to terms with what it means to desire, and be desired, with funny, surprising and sometimes confronting results.

Ulman first made her mark with the story ‘Chagall’s Wife’ in Meanjin; this collection shows that she’s a young Australian writer to put alongside Ceridwen Dovey, Nam Le and Fiona McFarlane.


The characters in Abigail Ulman’s debut collection of short stories, Hot Little Hands, all float on the spectrum between youth and adulthood. These teenagers and 20-somethings are trying to figure out how to grow up –they’re confused, funny and (sometimes painfully) familiar. Wunderkind blogger-turned-author Amelia can’t finish her book so decides to have a baby. Elise and Jenni, 16 and bored with their routine of text-messages, Vodka Cruisers and casual sex, decide go back to horse camp. Claire’s trying to break up with her boyfriend, but he makes a great espresso blend, plus she’s pregnant and pretty sure he’s the father.

Hot Little Hands is a collection that grapples with what coming of age means in this decade. Comparisons with Lena Dunham’s Girls and Not That Kind of Girl are inevitable here. Ulman’s strength as a storyteller stems from her ability to present the experiences of young women as strikingly relatable, as well as entertaining. This collection speaks to the confusion and selfishness of youth, examining conflicting desires – hedonism, ambition and anxiety. The girls and women in Hot Little Hands are immature, often privileged, and difficult to like, but it’s hard to pinpoint how seriously Ulman is taking them and their baggage. Her pop-culture references and hipsterisms verge on self-conscious – fixie bikes, literary tattoos and warehouse parties are a staple of Claire’s three linked stories in particular. But perhaps the frustration is merely an effect of inevitable reflections about how close to home, at times, the references and characters seem.

A new voice in the Australian literary scene, Ulman is a strong writer – her dialogue is sharp, often very funny, and packs an emotional punch. Ulman’s stories are honest and will definitely strike a chord with readers. There’s a compelling freshness and energy in these stories that makes Hot Little Hands an addictive read.

Stella Charls

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