Butcher’s Perfume

All posts tagged Butcher’s Perfume

Short Stories Challenge – Butcher’s Perfume, Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference.

Published July 29, 2013 by bibliobeth


What’s Butcher’s Perfume all about?:

From Man Booker Prize-shortlisted author Sarah Hall comes a collection of unique and disturbing short fiction hailed as a sensation by UK reviewers. The first story was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story award in 2010 and involves a teenage girl who makes friends with Manda, of the notorious Slessor family, whose ancestors were gypsies but have now risen in stature to rule the small town in Cumbria, close to the Scottish border.

What did I think?:

Teenager Manda Slessor is reminiscent of the girl we used to know at school, the terrifying bully, that always seemed to have a gaggle of hanger-ons and admirers and seemed to get away with murder. Her family have risen in rank in the town, through the father Geordie racing horses for a living, and consistently winning the most sought after trophies in this sport. He is described by the author as “gristle right through to the bone,” and lives each day like he was “next in line for the throne.” Her brothers are also well known, more for their womanising and drinking which earns them both fear and respect.

Our narrator is a teenage girl who develops a friendship with Manda, and it is through her eyes we see the fiesty family, and learn about their characters and relationships. The most interesting of these is the relationship between the mother and father which seems to be fiery, passionate, and steadfastly loyal. Our narrator sees Vivian as the real driving force of the family, and the glue that keeps them together, despite the fights and arguments viewed from the outside. When our narrator comes upon a tortured horse, we see the family for what they really are and how they have developed their own code of honour.

This is the first of Sarah Hall’s works that I have come across, and I really enjoyed the gritty realism of her writing. She paints the Cumbrian landscape with such beauty and finesse that the reader can easily picture it and feel part of the story. I also enjoyed how parts of the Northern dialect danced across the pages, giving a real sense of authenticity. The characterisation was superb, even though I didn’t understand how our narrator could want anything to do with Manda and her family! And the ending (which I won’t spoil) left me intrigued and wanting more, but was a perfect finale to a unique and fascinating short story.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: The Infamous Bengal Ming – Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner

Challenge: Short Stories June to July

Published June 4, 2013 by bibliobeth


The Challenge:

A podcast that I love and listen to regularly is Books on The Nightstand and it is they who are responsible for sparking my interest in the short story. They have dubbed 2013 the “year of the short story,” and to celebrate, one of their pod-casters is reading one short story a day. I cannot promise that dedication so have decided to read one story a week, after realising this is the perfect opportunity to start reading all those short story collections on my Kindle or in “tree-book” version that seem to be accumulating.


I’ve finished them all, of course!

A Two Month Plan – June to July

Week beginning 3rd June

The Mist – Stephen King from Skeleton Crew

Week beginning 10th June

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank – Nathan Englander from What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

Week beginning 17th June

Diving Belles – Lucy Wood from Diving Belles

Week beginning 24th June

The Blue Summit – Randy Taguchi from Fujisan

Week beginning 1st July

Vampires in the Lemon Grove – Karen Russell from Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Week beginning 8th July

A Scandal in Bohemia – Arthur Conan Doyle from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 15th July

Butcher’s Perfume – Sarah Hall from The Beautiful Indifference

Week beginning 22nd July

The Infamous Bengal Ming – Rajesh Parameswaran from I Am An Executioner

Week beginning 29th July

I’m Starved For You – Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

As always, if anyone would like to join me in a read-along, you are more than welcome. Happy Reading Everyone!