AWW2017: Secret Lives of Books by Rosaleen Love


Secret lives, replete with possibilities. Elsewhere exists as a better place, in a better time, for a better life. The trick is how to get there from here. These stories give the answers. Share in the secret lives of books. Fly to Mars, the first stage, perhaps, in the onward journey to elsewhere. Hear the music of the heavenly spheres and be forever changed, providing the bad guys don’t hear it first. Discover Gaia may not be quite what we think she is. Discover the universe is a rather big place. Embrace Utopia for women too, if only …

Published by Twelfth Planet Press.





This review is presented as part of my commitment to the Australian Woman Writers Challenge 2017 and A Journey Through the Twelve Planets.

I purchased this book.

The Secret Lives of Books by Rosaleen Love is the tenth volume in the Twelve Planets series from Twelfth Planet Press. This volume collects five unconnected short stories (unconnected in terms of plot; like many of the other volumes in the series, there are connected thematic elements).

The first story in the collection is the titular The Secret Lives of Books. There is a deceptive simplicity about Love’s prose which is especially evident in this story. Expect no baroque prose here, but rather an almost brutal simplicity, but there is absolutely nothing simple about Love’s writing, with even the plainest of sentences containing layers of meaning. On the surface, this is a ghost story – a man dies and discovers that he loves his books more than his family. There is so much here that speaks of the deep love that people can have for books, and the homes that they can find in them. One of my favourites from the collection.

Next is Kiddofspeed. I was looking forward to this one in particular, being familiar with the controversy surrounding Elena Filatova’s supposed solo motorbike ride through the radiation zone surrounding Chernobyl. This is a biting piece, short but extremely powerful, that speaks to the layers of meaning that occur at the place where fact blurs into fiction.

Qasida is a story that really highlights Love’s precise talent with language. There are several threads running through this story, including explorers, Mars, alternate history and the connections that hold people together (and conversely, are not strong enough to hold them together). There’s an almost psychedelic tone to this story, giving the impression of looking into a kaleidoscope of fractured images that, at the end, form into a whole. I am deeply impressed by the talent that it takes to write a story like this.

The Kairos Moment feels very much cut from similar cloth as Qasida, though the story itself isn’t fractured into pieces. For me, it didn’t work quite as well as the previous story (which probably reflects much more on me as a reader than Love as a writer).

The final story in the collection is The slut and the universe. To me, this story reads as a feminist fable, exploring the ideas of feminine sexuality and the ways in which women choose to present themselves to the world. A stunning story, and a strong finish to the collection.

This is the first Rosaleen Love that I’ve read (much to my shame) and I am certain that it won’t be the last. I suspect that many of the stories will stand up well to rereading (and will possibly gain depth upon each reread). Like all of the volumes in the Twelve Planets, it is highly recommended.


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