Reeling for the Empire

All posts tagged Reeling for the Empire

Short Stories Challenge – Reeling for the Empire by Karen Russell, from the collection Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Published December 16, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s Reeling for the Empire all about?:

Reeling for the Empire is the second story in this collection by Karen Russell where a community of girls held captive in a silk factory slowly transmute into human silkworms, spinning delicate threads from their own bellies, and escape by seizing the means of production for their own revolutionary ends.

What did I think?:

This story is set in Japan at the height of the Empire, where tasks that are normally carried out by machines are becoming further industrialised to “keep up” with Western society. The sinister twist to this tale however, is that young women are being forced into carrying out work normally associated with the humble little silkworm to respond to an increased demand for high quality silk. It is more unnerving still when the reader learns that by means of a special drink, the women can actually become like silkworms, harnessing the power to spin the silk from their own bodies, at greater volumes and at greater speeds, reducing the need for expensive equipment. The wage paid for this task is pitiful, but in society at that time fathers were grateful for any monetary reward (as the daughter seemed to have little to say about it) so were keen to offload their child/burden on someone else and receive financial compensation for it. Our narrator Kitsune is slightly different in that she entered the factory of her own free will, but during her metamorphosis and entrapment with the other women, discovers the true meaning of revolution.

This collection is my first experience of Karen Russell’s work, and although I enjoyed the first story (Vampires in the Lemon Grove), I absolutely loved this one, and it has cemented the author as a real talent in my opinion. A bit of darkness in stories is one of my favourite things, and this tale had it in abundance. The characters were superb, and the plot so compelling that I rushed to get to the end, and was sorry to leave it, although I am convinced that it was the perfect length for what the author was trying to achieve. A  beautiful narrative with a genuinely disturbing ending, this story is going to stay in my mind for a long while!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: The Red-Headed League by Arthur Conan Doyle, from the collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Challenge: Short Stories October to December

Published October 4, 2013 by bibliobeth

What better way to end the year then by enjoying some more short stories? Here  is how I plan to spend the next three months:

Week beginning  7th October

Mr E. Morse, BA OXON (Failed) by Colin Dexter, from the collection The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime, Volume 7

Week beginning 14th October

Pilgrims by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 21st October

Her First Ball by Katherine Mansfield from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Week beginning 28th October

Here There Be Tygers by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Week beginning 4th November

Sister Hills by Nathan Englander from the collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

Week beginning 11th November

Countless Stones by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 18th November

The Sea of Trees by Randy Taguchi from the collection Fujisan

Week beginning 25th November

Reeling for the Empire by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Week beginning 2nd December

The Red-Headed League by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 9th December

The Beautiful Indifference by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

Week beginning 16th December

The Strange Career of Dr. Raju Gopalarajan by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner

Week beginning 23rd December

Things That Fall From The Sky by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 30th December

In Winter The Sky by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You