Only after I’d finished the story “Bohemian,” with the careless egocentrism of its central character so subtly constructed, did I realise why I recognised Davin Malarsan’s style. There’s a piercing sparseness to his tales, reminiscent of the way Kazuo Ishiguro uses clean-cut phrases and precise description to reflect the deepest ideas.
In his wide-ranging stories, Malarsan doesn’t pull any punches: many of his characters’ surface simplicity hides complex emotions that capture the reader with their poignancy, perfectly rendered through the elegant prose.
There were odd occasions when I would have preferred some further clarity, but that’s because I prefer my endings drawn out and, hopefully, happy. But these stories don’t allow for any false sentiment; many of them are tinged with a vague sense of the fragility of human happiness. This underlying thread—or threat—of sadness is never overt, but is expertly woven into the lives of the characters we meet.
When reading anthologies, I always end with one story that is by far my favourite. In this collection, there were three. In “Obaachan,” Jennifer’s double loss is magnified by the bargain she made with God; the last sneeze of a beloved pet in “I am Waiting for my Dogs to Die” overwhelms one and the callous, yet inevitable, abandonment of a first love in “Dolores,” all reflect the rising talent of this debut author.