The Shivering Ground and Other Stories was provided for me by Sara Barkat as part of a collaboration between Rosie Amber Reviews and the EN1103 Problems in Literature course I taught at University College Cork in autumn 2021. This review first appeared on Rosie Amber Reviews Dec. 9, 2021. You can purchase The Shivering Ground and Other Stories here.
Reviewing an anthology is always a tricky thing; because what is there to say that will accurately encompass almost a dozen, wildly different stories? Do you talk about the atmosphere? The characters? The creeping sense of dread? The killing hope? The gothic allusions? The shattering poignancy? The author herself and the incredible fact that this is only her first collection?
Yes, all of it.
Because that is exactly what Barkat’s debut collection, The Shivering Ground and Other Stories, is— all of these and so much more.
Written from such wildly different perspectives as a child in her garden, a nameless guard in a post-apocalyptic prison, and an ageless entity tasked with watching and cataloging the earths’ avian population, this collection covers a vast landscape of narrative possibilities. Beautiful in detail and haunting in execution, this is a collection made stronger for its defiance of categorization or genre. Whether crossing the twisted wasteland of an ending world, or the vastness of a photographer’s studio, Barkat lends weight to all her characters and their journeys, giving texture and color to their fears, hopes, and heartbreaks.
Across the depth and breadth of her collection, Barkat keeps an eye to the climate crisis of today, even as she dabbles with timelessness and universes removed from our own by a few heartbeats and a fingernail. Barkat is a young author with something to say about the mess of a world her generation (my generation too, if that matters) have inherited, but where other authors, poets, and activists howl, Barkat whispers. She edges around the corners of story and consciousness, never blatant but always present.
The entirety of The Shivering Ground and Other Stories will follow readers for days, if not weeks, but particular standouts for me included the titular “The Shivering Ground”, the hauntingly-Frankensteinian “Conditions”, and the heartache of inevitability in “Noticing”.
Stunning and undefined from start to finish, Barkat is a fierce new voice with a lot to say and a long future ahead of her.