This House Of Wounds – Georgina Bruce
Reviewed by Ben Walker
Evoking both beauty and pain, Catrin Welz-Stein and Vince Haig’s cover art sets you up perfectly for the sixteen short tales of horror dwelling within This House of Wounds by Georgina Bruce.
The poetic, fairytale worlds brought to life in this collection are a mix of new and previously published stories, sometimes interweaving as they cover themes of loss. The majority of characters here either lose control, or have it wrenched from them. You encounter women transformed into automatons, unable to control their minds and bodies, or shifting identities from moment to moment, losing their sense of self. Some choose to mask themselves, others escape into alternate realities, but only for so long.
It’s powerful stuff, and at the same time, it’s not an easy read. These aren’t stories which let you sail gently through from beginning to end; you’re often thrown right in at the deep end, struggling under the weight of Bruce’s unsettling prose. There’s gore when there needs to be, but mainly the horror comes from sheer dread, as characters are put through increasingly troubling situations which offer no happy endings. These worlds have a funhouse mirror quality, showing you modern truths alongside distorted fantasy elements, highlighting the worst parts in greater detail.
It sometimes feels like the concepts overshadow the characters, which is not to say that the character work is weak. The ideas hold all the power here, reflecting attitudes and society so well that by the end of most stories, it’s hard to think about anything else. There are exceptions, most notably The Queen of Knives, which is the story that resonated with me the most, dealing with childhood trauma and self-harm and leading to an unnervingly bloody & tragic climax. There’s also the mind-bending Wake Up, Phil, which gives off Lynchian vibes as a woman struggles with parallel existences and addiction.
You might want to pick through one story at a time rather than binge your way to the end like I did, otherwise you might find yourself emotionally exhausted by the midway point. Even the rare glimmer of hope often comes with a price, usually at the expense of a character’s innocence or sanity. Even if you read this in broad daylight, you’ll feel clouds over your head by the time you reach the last page.
Go in expecting to be challenged, and ultimately moved by this troubling collection. Especially recommended for fans of dense, dark prose with a feminist edge.
This House Of Wounds
The devastating debut short story collection from British Fantasy Award-winning author Georgina Bruce. Haunting and visceral tales for the lost and the lonely. An emotional and riveting debut.
Advance praise for Georgina Bruce’s ‘This House of Wounds.’
“An astonishing, totally absorbing debut collection. Edgy, disturbing and delicious in equal parts. Georgina Bruce plays with myth and horror beautifully.”
-Kerry Hadley-Pryce, Author of Gamble, and The Black Country
“The stories in This House of Wounds strike me as both an emotional and intellectual examination of pain, from how it spreads and is passed on to others to how it can easily turn us into different, crueller creatures. Each act formed in pain leads to another, then another, and this makes for twisted, beautiful reading. Georgina Bruce is a courageous and compelling writer.”
-Aliya Whiteley, Author of The Loosening Skin, and The Beauty
A horror fan and writer since who knows when, Ben started dabbling in online reviews around 2001. Nowadays he has a booktube channel, which features bizarre book reviews and further nonsense. When he isn’t writing, he’s probably looking at GIFs and eating Mexican food.
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