My Hearts are Your Hearts by Carmel Bird

I’m reading a lot of short stories at the moment, and am really enjoying this form of fiction.  Carmel Bird is now officially one of my favourite authors.

My Hearts Are Your Hearts by Carmel Bird

‘Once upon a time.  Listen.’

This book contains twenty new and recently published stories by Carmel Bird.  The stories are about a variety of experiences that are shared between people, but are also unique to each individual.  Those experiences, these matters of the heart, include life and death, fear and loss, love and betrayal and the stories are organised under four headings: ‘Body Parts’, Laws of Love’, ‘Sudden Death’ and ‘Life Saving’.

I have a confession to make.  I’ve fallen in love with Carmel Bird’s short stories, and am reading as many as I can.  I was delighted to pick this book up shortly after reading ‘The Essential Bird’.  While I was partly looking for more stories referencing Tasmania (I wasn’t disappointed), I was also just curious to explore Ms Bird’s latest work, to see how the stories compared to ‘The Essential Bird’.  My conclusion is that the one unifying aspect of Ms Bird’s short stories is that they are each interesting and each clever, albeit in very different ways.

I don’t have a favourite story in this collection, each story has its own appeal.  Some events (such as death, broken marriages) are more common than others.  I was intrigued by the story about the transplanted womb, made uncomfortable by the story about the schoolgirl and the priest, wondered about paying $6,000 for a raincoat.  But each of the stories, entire in itself, could be different.  Could be larger, perhaps, if Ms Bird chose to take it in another direction or into a different dimension.  Each story is perfect as it is, but I felt like each story had another life, somewhere off the page, it could be continued.  There’s a form of magic in the mundane, a believability in what is presented.

At the end of the book, Ms Bird has included comments on the origins and themes of each of the stories.  This allows the reader some insight into Ms Bird’s creative process, and is (for me at least) is fantastic.

‘It has occurred to me that one of the attractions the short story has for me both as a reader and a writer is the ability the form has to provide moments of illumination, to draw together delicate strands of emotion, character, incident, theme, subject – and to do something akin to what a conjurer does with coloured silk handkerchiefs …’

If you enjoy Ms Bird’s writing, if you like short stories (the longest is 26 pages), then this collection is well worth reading.  If you haven’t yet read any of Ms Bird’s fiction, then this might be a good place to start.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith