This Taste for Silence by Amanda O'Callaghan
Short fiction is a versatile and, in my opinion, very useful form of writing. A good short story can immerse you in a totally new world over the course of a train trip, or help you consider things from a new point of view in minutes. Amanda O’Callaghan’s debut collection of short stories, This Taste for Silence, is a stunning achievement that does all of the above and more.
This book is mix of microfiction and more traditional short stories. While the form differs throughout, there’s always an element of the unexpected to these stories. Characters don’t react the way that you think they will, interactions and objects are never quite what they seem. Long-hidden truths are revealed in unusual circumstances. Whether it’s a dark secret coming out over dinner, or an oil painting with a sinister magic power, O’Callaghan maintains a subtle, compelling sense of intrigue that makes each story highly readable without compromising the quality and detail of her writing. And while I did love each story’s plot (they’re all unique and fully formed), the skill with which O’Callaghan writes was probably my favourite aspect of This Taste for Silence. The book is full of sentences to linger over, vivid descriptions, and beautifully crafted dialogue.
Reading this book, I decided that O’Callaghan’s writing seeks to capture moments of disharmony – changes, misunderstandings, even moments in which the supernatural encroaches on an otherwise mundane life. Her writing explores what might happen when the dynamic between two people shifts, or when a moment or a thing is transformed by being viewed in a new light. It does all of this with grace. This is such a strong debut, and is the kind of book I know I’ll be making time to re-read soon.