Review: Fabulous Lives by Bindy Pritchard

Fabulous Lives (2019) by Bindy Pritchard

From Margaret River Press comes the short story anthology Fabulous Lives by debut author Bindy Pritchard. Each pocket of story speaks to the marginalised sorts that exist on the periphery—almost out of sight—if not for the surreal and whimsical characters they are or situations that they find themselves in. There is Leonie, who stumbles upon an unconscious fallen angel from the Mardi Gras Parade; Bryant, waking up to the chatter of his boys in the lounge room who have rolled an enormous egg home from the dunes; and, in Bees of Paris, Louise assists an injured beekeeper for a reduction in rent. Think of this anthology as an allspice mix.

Fabulous Lives is an exploration of ideas and writing technique that I think will bear remarkable fruit as Pritchard continues to deliver as an author. There is a constant trickle of irony and facetiousness that swells behind the often wild and ridiculous moments of ordinary day-to-day life. It’s a wry smile. It’s a laugh through your nose. It’s easily missed but taunting, nonetheless.

There are, however, moments where pacing and rhythm fall flat. Few stories don’t deliver as I think they could or should but that’s not to take away from the anthology as a whole. But in fairness, there are stories that exceed expectation and deliver something beautifully unexpected, whether that is a character revelation, a situational crisis, or recognising new shapes of yourself as the reader.

Many of these stories have roots in Perth, which—having moved to Melbourne this year—carved a small sadness and longing for my home. I can retrace my steps around Northbridge and drives down south and time well-spent with loved ones. The collection upturned those menial day-to-day activities into something new and special. It hones in on the individual, but it has a fascinating capacity to thread the individual into the collective human experience: not always glamorous, often persevering, but always worthwhile.

Be patient with Fabulous Lives. Don’t expect to rush through it. There are subtleties and indications that you will need to collect as you pilfer through the stories. It will reflect something foreign back at you that you will come to recognise as a portion of yourself you didn’t realise existed—as is the way for promising literature and its authors.

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