Hold Your Fire by Chloe Wilson
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.