salt slow is a debut collection of bizarre and unnerving tales showcasing Julia Armfield’s penchant for the absurd. Blending Roald Dahl and Dylan Thomas, Armfield’s prose is wildly inventive and consistently blurs the line between reality and fantasy. Sensorially salient, these stories come to life by leaking into one’s nostrils and lingering on the tongue – smells of flesh, unwashed bedlinen, and orange peels draped over the prose.
Despite her grá for myth and the eerily odd, Armfield’s characters are diverse and human; she tactfully brings same-sex couples to life without prefacing them with declarations of their sexualities. High points include ‘Mantis’, which evokes the grizzly discomfort of puberty, and ‘Granite’, which hints at the fragility of masculinity – for once portraying men as the vulnerable sex when it comes to love. But ‘The Great Awake’ unquestionably steals the show, personifying insomnia in a way that is reminiscent of African fiction. In it, ‘an amputation of sorts’ occurs – ‘the removal of the sleep-state from the body’ in city-dwellers.
A couple of stories verge on cliché, such as ‘The Collectables’ (because who really needs another Frankenstein story) but these are eclipsed by the merits of their neighbouring gems.
salt slow is an impressive barrage of unconventional tales, laden with palpable tastes and smells, which firmly establishes Armfield as a skilled contemporary Gothic writer.
Words: Courtney Byrne