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On My Aunt’s Shallow Grave White Roses Have Already Bloomed by Maria Mitsora, translated by Jacob Moe. Book review

October 28, 2018

Book cover of My Aunt's Shallow Grave showing detail of a black and white picture of the back of a white rose and a sepia photograph of a woman's eye and eyebrow.

On My Aunt’s Shallow Grave White Roses Have Already Bloomed is a blend of the understated sinister of Shirley Jackson and the dark flamboyance of Angela Carter, making it an excellent choice to curl up with for the upcoming Halloween and winter nights.

Greece is a country steeped in the tradition of fantastical, mythical creatures, or where the gods hold sway over the fates of mortals. In My Aunt’s Shallow Grave, Maria Mitsora has taken this concept and played ruthlessly with it. Reality often slips into the bizarre, or the barrier between the two begins to break down until there is a melding of normal life and fantasy, creating a world where the reader is held suspended in time as they immerse themselves in the story.

This collection focuses on relationships, albeit often unhealthy ones of obsession (a theme which runs through Greek mythology), as well as extremes of behaviour from people whose perception of the world is clearly at odds with everyone else’s. The voices Mitsora chooses therefore create a terrific growing sense of unease for a reader who is lead through a narrative where they are really not sure how the story will end. The endings are generally the kind which do not provide the comfort of resolution, or making things right in the world. In other words, these are stories which will continue to haunt you long after you have finished them and have you looking over your shoulder for that out of place shadow, or something which may or may not be there.

Jacob Moe’s translation does well in picking up the nuances of Mitsora’s writing which is very fluid and reminiscent of prose poetry when moving the reader deftly through a scene or a character’s emotions. On My Aunt’s Shallow Grave is therefore a book which will continue to deliver on every re-read.

This is an excellent book for any writer who enjoys working with off kilter stories which embrace fantasy, elements of subtle horror and character inner dialogue with skewed psychological perspectives. It is a difficult field to work in and get right, which Mitsora does brilliantly.

On My Aunt’s Shallow Grave White Roses Have Already Bloomed was courtesy of Yale University Press via NetGalley.

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