Vampires in the Lemon Grove

All posts tagged Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Short Stories Challenge – The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979 by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Published April 22, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979 all about?:

From the author of the New York Times best seller Swamplandia!—a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize—a magical new collection of stories that showcases Karen Russells gifts at their inimitable best.

The third story in this collection involves a dejected teenager who discovers that the universe is communicating with him through talismanic objects left behind in a seagull’s nest.

What did I think?:

Before beginning my short stories challenge, I had never previously read any of Karen Russell’s work, although her novel Swamplandia is on my TBR list that I mean to get to at some point! This latest story (I won’t type the long title yet again) involves a young man called Nal whom at the time when we are introduced to him is not having a very good time of it. Firstly he is worried about his mother who has recently been made unemployed and seems to be spiralling into a worrying depression, lying on the sofa all day and making little effort to find another job. Nal is an incredibly intelligent fourteen year old and has been accepted onto an exclusive educational programme which he now cannot attend due to the fees yet he manages to pick up a few part-time jobs to keep money coming into the household.

As well as his worries about his mother, money and future education Nal also has an older brother called Samson who seems to constantly take advantage of his good nature. Through his life, Nal has always felt like he stands in the shadow of his older, better looking and socially gifted brother but when Samson begins to date Vanessa, a girl who Nal himself has been in love with for a long time, it almost feels like the last straw. However on July 11th, 1979 Nal begins to notice something increasingly unusual as clouds of gulls begin to descend on the small town; “in numbers unseen since the ornithologists began keeping records of such things.” At first, Nal thinks that a particular gull that he sees often may be his conscience or an omen of something terrible but after finding a nest in the hollow of a tree he notices objects dated from the future that the gulls have hoarded.

This was a very strange but interesting little story and I enjoyed the way in which Karen Russell grabs an idea or concept that is slightly “out there” but makes it work in the concept of the tale. Nal was a brilliant and intriguing character that I found myself rooting for, and I was eager to discover if he would finally get the rewards in life that he deserved. As with the other two stories though, the author likes to keep her reader guessing and draw their own conclusions. The writing is beautiful and inspiring and I always seem to finish her stories wondering where on earth she got her ideas from. Looking forward to the next!

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: A Case of Identity by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

 

Challenge: Short Stories April to June

Published April 1, 2014 by bibliobeth

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The year is going really quickly so far and these are the short stories that will keep me entertained until the end of June!

Week beginning 7th April

Jamila by Randy Taguchi from the collection Fujisan

Week beginning 14th April

The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979 by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Week beginning 21st April

A Case of Identity by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 28th April

Bees by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

Week beginning 5th May

Four Rajeshes by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 12th May

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

Week beginning 19th May

She Was Looking For This Coat by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 26th May

Ganymede by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 2nd June

Xenos Beach by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 9th June

Chocolate Hearts From The New World by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 16th June

Snatched by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 23rd June

Malvern Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro from the collection Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

Week beginning 30th June

Ghosts With Teeth by Peter Crowther from the collection A Book of Horrors

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):

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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

Short Story Challenge – Vampires in the Lemon Grove, Karen Russell from the collection Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Published July 8, 2013 by bibliobeth

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Illustration by Clifford Harper/agraphia.co.uk

What’s Vampires In the Lemon Grove all about?:

The title story from this collection by Karen Russell does what it says on the tin. That is, it is about a vampire. Who lives in a lemon grove. Clyde has given up his blood-thirsty days for love of his vampire wife Magreb who has never actually tasted blood, informing her husband that this thirst can be sated by digging his fangs into a lemon or three. Clyde has been painfully misled by traditional vampire mythology, so Magreb introduces him to a host of new wonders – he doesn’t have to sleep during the day, garlic holds no terrors etc. But is this enough for him where there is a chance he may lose her?

What did I think?:

I haven’t previously read any of Karen Russell’s work, although I have downloaded the critically acclaimed Swamplandia which is waiting patiently on my Kindle to be read. I have to admit, I was intrigued by this collection purely by the title of this first story, and although I wasn’t disappointed, the ending left me slightly bewildered. First of all however, this is a very quirky read, I loved the imaginative idea of vampires sucking on lemons to quench their desire for human blood! Our main character Clyde comes across as quite an honourable soul (or non-soul!), with his romantic notions of giving up blood once he meets the love of his life. As the story continues, we get the sense that Clyde is not fully happy, and is terrified of his wife leaving him. This is because every evening she morphs into a bat and spends the evenings up in the caves, while Clyde remains in his lemon grove. Unfortunately, Clyde has lost the ability to undergo any sort of metamorphosis, and will not set foot outside the lemon grove, separating himself from his wife, and leaving him desperately fed up.

So, something does eventually happen where Clyde must confront his demons, and I found this part quite exciting and enjoyable. As I mentioned earlier, the ending just didn’t sit right with me, perhaps I expected something different? Apart from that, it is quite a nice little story about love, hope and fear and I look forward to reading more from this collection.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: A Scandal in Bohemia by Arthur Conan Doyle from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Challenge: Short Stories June to July

Published June 4, 2013 by bibliobeth

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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.

Until?…..

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!