Read The Doll's Alphabet by Camilla Grudova Online


Surreal, ambitious, and exquisitely conceived, The Doll's Alphabet is a collection of stories in the tradition of Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood. Dolls, sewing machines, tinned foods, mirrors, malfunctioning bodies many images recur in stories that are in turn child-like and naive, grotesque and very dark. In "Unstitching", a feminist revolution takes place. In "Waxy",Surreal, ambitious, and exquisitely conceived, The Doll's Alphabet is a collection of stories in the tradition of Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood. Dolls, sewing machines, tinned foods, mirrors, malfunctioning bodies many images recur in stories that are in turn child-like and naive, grotesque and very dark. In "Unstitching", a feminist revolution takes place. In "Waxy", a factory worker fights to keep hold of her Man in a society where it is frowned upon to be Manless. In "Agata's Machine", two schoolgirls conjure a Pierrot and an angel in a dank attic room. In "Notes from a Spider", a half-man, half-spider finds love in a great European city. By constantly reinventing ways to engage with her obsessions and motifs, Camilla Grudova has come up with a method for storytelling that is highly imaginative, incredibly original, and absolutely discomfiting....

Title : The Doll's Alphabet
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781910695371
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 182 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Doll's Alphabet Reviews

  • Melki
    2019-03-22 21:16

    Grudova's debut collection of short stories is strange, but wonderful. Her characters inhabit drab, gray worlds, and walk under dark, stormy skies. They seem to exist under a cloud of menace, and anything can happen in their Kafkaesque realities. The author seems fond of sewing machines, and the devices appear in most of the tales; an odd, but apt addition is this contraption meant to free a woman from the drudgery of hand sewing that became instead an instrument of enslavement, chaining countless females to poorly paid and dangerous factory jobs.The stories, while not bizarre enough to be Bizarro, are pretty weird. Sid's toys would feel right at home within these pages.Just my kind of thing, but maybe not your cup of tea.

  • Rebecca Foster
    2019-04-02 22:42

    This debut collection sets surreal tales of women’s inner lives against ruined cityscapes. The 13 stories are like perverted fairytales or fragmentary nightmares, full of strange recurring imagery and hazily dystopian setups. Flash fiction-length stories alternate with longer ones that move at a dizzying pace, and the book is roughly half third-person and half first-person – a balance I always appreciate.“Unstitching,” the two-page opener, introduces the metaphors and gender politics that form the backdrop for Grudova’s odd imagination. One day Greta realizes she can unstitch herself, removing an outer covering to reveal her true identity; “It brought great relief … like undoing one’s brassiere before bedtime or relieving one’s bladder after a long trip.” Her neighbor Maria does the same, but men – including Greta’s husband – find this intimidating, and are jealous because they don’t seem to have a deeper self to uncover. I was tickled by the idea of women having a secret life unshared by men, but had trouble grasping the actual mechanics of the unstitching: “She did not so much resemble a sewing machine as she was the ideal form on which a sewing machine was based. The closest thing she resembled in nature was an ant.” Huh? This is a case where keeping things vague might have been a better strategy.Sewing machines keep popping up, along with mermaids, dolls, babies, zoos, factories, and old-fashioned or derelict shops. For example, the narrator of “The Mouse Queen” is a clerk in a doll’s house shop, while her husband Peter works in a graveyard. One night he brings home the corpse of an old dwarf woman, which the narrator decides to stow in the abandoned grocery store under their apartment. Um, naturally.In “Waxy” (full text available on the Granta website) the narrator works at a sewing machine factory and unlawfully acquires a baby by her sub-par Man, Paul. The sexual violence in this one and in “Moth Emporium” is deeply unsettling: even in these off-kilter fictional worlds women’s bodies are considered a threat and pregnancy is never innocuous.My two favorites were “Agata’s Machine” (full text available at The White Review) and “Notes from a Spider.” The former is perhaps indebted to D.H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking-Horse Winner” in its picture of obsessive and ultimately self-destructive activity. It features two Eastern European eleven-year-olds: the narrator is bullied, while her friend Agata is an aloof genius. In her attic room Agata keeps what looks like a sewing machine, but pushing its treadle creates flickering images of Pierrot (a clown) or an angel. This one has a chilling ending. The last story, “Notes from a Spider,” is told by a half-man, half-spider with eight legs. He keeps a zoo for vermin and opens – what else? – a sewing machine museum.I’ve discovered that I have limited tolerance for outlandish tales like these. I’d be intrigued to find one of Grudova’s stories in an anthology, and I might be happy to read the best four or five of these. But because the same images and concepts keep repeating, the book feels twice as long as it needs to be. Ultimately this book was not for me, but I would not hesitate to recommend it to you if you have enjoyed the more fantastical of the feminist short stories by Karen Russell, Alexandra Kleeman and Helen Simpson.With thanks to publicist Nicolette Praça for the free copy for review.Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck.

  • Blair
    2019-04-06 20:29

    If I was in the habit of saying 'what did I just read?' after finishing a particularly odd book, I'd certainly say it about The Doll's Alphabet. I flew through the whole of this short story collection over the course of a long train journey (I often read fiction quickly, but even I was surprised at how swiftly I made it through this) and, afterwards, felt like I'd experienced something like a sensory overload. Motifs recur so frequently throughout these strange stories that the book left me with a jumbled mental image of weird objects: dolls, sewing machines, particular types of food (toast with golden syrup, various tinned things), factories, insect-like body parts. Some of the stories are flash fiction, between a sentence and a page in length. Others take plenty of time to flesh out their grubby dystopian worlds. They tend to focus on women; there's a lot of sex, a lot of it disturbing; a lot of power play between the genders. Yet, in spite of all this dark weirdness, The Doll's Alphabet is so charged with absurdity that it can't help but be extremely funny at times.'Waxy', probably the most-discussed story from the collection, is packed with its own proper nouns: it's frowned upon for a woman to be without a Man; women work in Factories and take care of their Men, while Men study Philosophy Books and take Exams. There's a post-war feel to this world – the outdated gender politics, the rationed food, the posters saying things like 'A GOOD LADY DOES NOT LET HER MAN LOITER'. In 'Agata's Machine', the title character constructs (using an old sewing machine) a contraption that makes visions of mysterious men appear – as if in a silent film, except these images have minds of their own. In 'Unstitching', women step out of their skins; in 'Edward, Do Not Pamper the Dead' (what a title!), the dead keep on eating, smoking, reading newspapers. But I think my favourite might actually have been 'The Gothic Society', just over a page long, in which gothic motifs and objects spontaneously appear throughout urban environments: possibly elaborate acts of vandalism, perhaps a sort of plague, like a prolific weed. It's typical of Grudova's stories that it ends without conclusion.TinyLetter | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr

  • Kaitlin
    2019-03-26 19:31

    Well, this was a MothBox pick for the Short Story month and I LOVED it. All the stories were entertaining and engaging and beautifully weird and I took down mini notes as I was reading ti so I am just going to leave them below. I would definitely recommend this if you enjoy Magical Realism as it's filled with wonderful stories and ideas. NOTES FROM A SPIDER - Surreal story following an 8-limbed individual who cannot find a lover like him until he spies a sewing machine of immense poise and beauty. He takes her home and develops a relationship with her that only leads to deeper troubles and infatuation... 4*s"May 22, 2017 – page 169 THE MOTH EMPORIUM - Creepy people who run a costume shop and scare the narrator as a child. Later she returns and finds a love affair and a life there which quickly blooms. The costumes business needs help, it's all a bit chaotic and gory! 3*"May 22, 2017 – page 145 HUNGARIAN SPRATS - a silly little story about a man who decides to can everything he owns and ship it on a voyage with him. Naturally, things go rather wrong and his possessions are exposed! 3*s"May 22, 2017 – page 137 EDWARD, DO NOT PAMPER THE DEAD - Weird and surreal look at a couple who are trying to save for a sewing machine to give them the means to have a baby. The woman is hardworking and desperate for love, the man more laid back and sneakily a saboteur... 3.5*s"May 22, 2017 – page 123 THE SAD TALE OF THE SCONCE - Totally bizarre in a brilliant way. Tells of the journey a sconce goes on through they years. From the sea to shore to shop to sailors and more. It's a fishy tale and a sad one, but I really enjoyed it's bizarre nature!"May 22, 2017 – page 107 RHINOCEROS - Really liked this though it creeped me out too. It's the story of a couple existing and loving but barely scraping by on meagre earnings from Nicholas' paintings. One day they find a zoo and the animals enchant him and there's a compelling allure to the place... 4*s"May 20, 2017 – page 97 AGATA'S MACHINE - This one was kind of a blend of friendships, discovery and religion. The strange machine Agata introduces us to can create wonderful beings from the minds of children. 3*s"May 20, 2017 – page 73 THE DOLL'S ALPHABET - Tiny sentence that possibly passed over my head. Maybe it's just that it's smaller as it's for a doll. 2*MERMAID - Classic tale of a mermaid stealing away the husband. only 2.5*s"May 20, 2017 – page 65 WAXY - Hugely inventive world where Men and Women struggle along. Women are raised to get a Man and care for him. Men take Exams to get money. Unregistered births aren't allowed. Food is rationed heavily. The world is a dystopia come to life. Paul is the peculiar man she meets. 4.5*s. I could have read a whole novel in this world.May 20, 2017 – page 37 THE GOTHIC SOCIETY - tiny story about Gothic infecting the modern world. Barely a teaser but one that already sparked NY imagination. Super cool. 4*May 20, 2017 – page 32 THE MOUSE QUEEN - this one was a longer story than the first and focused on themes of ancient Italy, mythology, art, religion and death. I loved the twists on motherhood and red riding hood. A peculiar twisted tale that I really liked. 4*sMay 20, 2017 – page 14 UNSTITCHING - A curious tale about women showing their true forms and shedding the skins they once bore. More depth than first meets the eye. Really strong opening to the collection. 4*Fantastic. 4.5*s overall :D

  • Paul Fulcher
    2019-03-28 19:28

    One afternoon, after finishing a cup of coffee in her living room, Greta discovered how to unstitch herself. Her clothes, skin and hair fell from her like the peeled rind of a fruit, and her true body stepped out. Greta was very clean so she swept her old self away and deposited it in the rubbish bin before even taking notice of her new physiognomy, the difficulty of working her new limbs offering no obstruction to her determination to keep a clean home.She did not so much resemble a sewing machine as she was the ideal form on which a sewing machine was based. The closest thing she resembled in nature was an ant.She admired herself in the mirror for a short time then went to see her neighbour Maria, across the hall in her building. When Maria saw Greta, she was not afraid for she suddenly recognized herself. She knew that she looked the same inside, and could also unstitch herself, which she did, unashamed, in front of Greta.They admired each other, and ate almond cake as they did every afternoon, but now using their newly discovered real mouths, which were framed by steely, sharp black mandibles which felt like a pleasant cross between teeth and a moustache.Fitzcarraldo Editions are perhaps my favourite of the UKs flourishing (in quality if not financially) small independent press scene, and indeed were worthy winners of the inaugural Republic of Consciousness Prize. But I do tend to associate them with the sort of lengthy, densely erudite and cerebral novels which, while I enjoy, I must also admit to feeling a little relieved to have made it to the end. The Doll’s Alphabet, a debut book of short stories, strikes a rather different tone. Camilla Grudova is a Canadian author. Jacques Testard ( serves as both owner of Fitzcarraldo Editions and a founding editor of The White Review, and, on Nicola Barker's recommendation (who first championed her as the heiress to Angela Carter), he first commissioned some of her stories for The White Review, then published this anthology.The rather cryptic title story, a piece of flash fiction, reads in full:“The Doll’s Alphabet has eleven letters:A B C D I L M N O P U”(No, me neither!)But this is atypical as the other 12 stories range between 2 and 27 pages and typically succeeding in creating a world of their own (albeit explored at a personal level only), one rather surreal, highly disturbing and absolutely fascinating.The first Unstitching (itself the 2nd shortest piece) sets the tone, from the opening quoted above, with unstitching spreading through society but the men unable to undergo the same “evolution towards unstitching Consciousness” as “they had no ‘true,secret’ selves inside”.The world of the stories seems to be both old-fashioned and dystopian, with sinister sewing machines one common thread (pun intended). As the author has explained in an interview:The anachronistic aspect is from my own life, my family didn’t have a television till I was a pre-teen or a computer until I was a teenager, and we never owned a car; the sewing machine was the first machine in my life, my mother taught me how to use it, I made dolls, doll’s clothes, clothes for myself. It was very much an imaginative tool for me so I associate it with writing. And my grandmother from Lublin worked as a seamstress. She lived in London and Paris at various points. I have her Polish-French dictionaries she bought in Paris. She was schizophrenic and an artist and died when I was quite young, so she haunts me. One of my mother’s favourite toys as a child, and in turn, one of my favourite toys, was this little metal sock darner that looked like a miniature typewriter, doll-sized you know, with 11 or so little prongs. The publisher's blurb references Angela Carter and Margaret Attwood, and one of favourite critics Nick Lezard ( reached for David Lynch as a comparison: a combination of the three does sum up the effect well and Grudova acknowledges the influence of Carter, amongst many others, although also has said she had never seen a David Lynch movie.Perhaps my favourite story was Waxy - a world of Men who take Examinations in philosophy, winning cash prizes that they typically spend before they even return home, while Women work in hazardous factories and try to avoid pregnancy at all costs: it was frowned upon to be Manless. I knew people would become suspicious of me if I went without one for too long. The way to meet Men was to go to a cafe, order a coffee and wait for a Man to talk to you. They often went, in groups, to cafes to study. The cafes had wooden booths and stools, and the floors and walls were all tiled. In the cheaper cafes the tiles were filthy and cracked, in more expensive ones they smelled strongly of bleach. The first question a Man always asked was what type of Factory you worked in. Ideal were the ones that disfigured a woman the least and paid the most. Pauline’s job was better than mine; she could’ve found a better Man than Stuart, though perhaps not because her anorexia was unappealing. Men really liked women to have breasts for them to fondle when they were nervous.My hands were rather ruined from the chemicals in the paint I used at work. I thought about wearing gloves to the cafe, but that would’ve been deceitful, and if part of you that is normally shown is conspicuously covered, the Men know it is hiding some sort of disfigurement. I didn’t want them to imagine my hands were worse than they actually were. I was lucky not to have a disfigured face, though I did have a nasty cough sometimes.One day at a cafe I saw a tall, red-haired young Man with lots of freckles who appealed, but a girl with brown ringlets and a black eyepatch came in sobbing and pulled him out by the sleeve of his coat before we had a chance to talk.[...]One evening I saw the Man sitting alone in the cafe. I assumed the girl had got pregnant and died. The Man only ordered a cup of coffee, and I didn’t see him in the cafe for a few days after that –until he showed up with a new girl.She was fat and bald with red splotches on her skull, and wore a fake jewel necklace she played with repeatedly. The Man ordered a whole Golden Syrup Toast for himself and ate it greedily, chewing with his mouth wide open in a grin. I felt ill, and never went back to that cafe again. It didn’t much matter, the cafe menus were the same everywhere:COFFEEGOLDEN SYRUP TOASTBOILED TINNED MEAT WTH TOASTThe tinned meat became grey when it was boiled and made the toast all wet; most people just ordered Golden Syrup Toast with Coffee. There were also pubs, that sold beer and gin, but, like libraries, women weren’t allowed in those. They were places for Men to socialize and study for their Exams in peace.Highly recommended. Perhaps my own reservation is that most of the stories seem variations on a theme, and indeed given that the worlds she create have such similarities, I very much looked forward to reading the novel she is now apparently writing.Sample stories:Agata's Machine interviews:

  • Marc Nash
    2019-03-21 23:14

    Described as a cross between Angela Carter & Margaret Atwood, but the story "Waxy" put me in mind of Anna Kavan, "Agata's Machine" of Kafka. But the point is that these stories are of themselves and of the author Grudova, not versions of other earlier, more established writers. She presents an off-kilter world in each story, full of rot, decay, rodents, of dented & rusty food cans, precisely limited and rationed clothes, the centrality and repurposing of sewing machines. Smell is an important sense throughout, the stench of mildew, of turned food, of wounds and the bandages that cover them. The humans who populate these worlds are benighted, physically more than emotionally, though the compass for movement and development is extremely limited. These worlds might be described as dystopic, but I think that undervalues the tone Grudova is after. Her characters are disempowered, limited by circumstances, stunted by a lack of room for manoeuvre. The opening story "Unstitched" is perhaps the only one of hope and movement, as women use sewing machines to unstitch the prisons of their bodies to reveal their true selves encased inside. "Waxy" is a strange world where men have to sit Exams rather than work and their women have to support their efforts, which means no children which would take away from that focus; in this story an outsider male who is not part of the exam system hooks up with a woman and they have a secret child and demonstrate strange, illicit tenderness in a world devoid of any. The final story "Notes From A Spider" is perhaps the most unsettling as an 8-limbed man pines for a mate and compensates by having seamstresses produce cloth on an arachnid-looking sewing machine that ends up consuming both them and ultimately him in his sexual desperation. I liked the ambience of the world of these stories, and Grudova's style is simple though she certainly can throw up extraordinary imagery: "I was couch-ridden for a month after having the twins, I felt like Prometheus, the babies were eagles with soft beaks, my breasts being continually emptied and filled."

  • Krista
    2019-04-18 18:35

    The Doll's Alphabet has eleven letters:ABCDILMNOPUThe Doll's Alphabet is a strange, surrealist collection of stories that consistently had me wondering, “What did I just read? What does it mean?” That quote above is the entirety of the titular story: And. What. Does. That. Mean? Does it mean anything? I don't know if that particular “story”, and author Camilla Grudova's decision to name the collection after it, is meant to warn the reader off of trying to parse a deeper meaning in these tales, but like time-tested fables, these stories feel deep; they clicked for me beyond my conscious mind, leaving me puzzled but somehow satisfied. Channelling Grimm by way of Gogol, Grudova layers on some Atwoodesque social commentary and it all works.This collection has thirteen stories, ranging in length from the two sentences above to one story that is twenty-six pages, and they are all set in a world of scarcity (think a cross between Communist bread lines and some post-apocalyptic future) with grime, shabbiness, and folks living on tea, tubers, and tinned fishes; this is our world but not, familiar but strange. (If I had a complaint it would be that for a collection of fantastical tales, despite different social structures and apparently different settings in each story, they all seem to inhabit the same world; there's also a sameness of voice and style that could have been shaken up.) And these are decidedly feminist stories, with surrealist situations underscoring gender roles – pregnancy and childbirth are often dodgy propositions; even mermaids risk molestation. Themes and ideas recur throughout, but no image moreso than that of an old-fashioned sewing machine; and what does that mean? In the first story, Unstitching, women discover how to reveal their inner selves (to the disgust and envy of their male partners):One afternoon, after finishing a cup of coffee in her living room, Greta discovered how to unstitch herself. Her clothes, skin, and hair fell from her like the peeled rind of a fruit, and her true body stepped out...She did not so much resemble a sewing machine as she was the ideal form on which a sewing machine was based. The closest thing in nature she resembled was an ant.In Agata's Machine, a reclusive young genius transforms a sewing machine into a magic lantern that projects a moving image of her dream man, and in Edward, Do Not Pamper the Dead, a man undermines his wife's efforts to save up for a sewing machine of her own:He had dreamt of the sewing machine many times; he was convinced Bernadette and the machine would somehow become one being, a silver needle coming out of Bernadette's mouth where her teeth should have been. In his dreams, he lay flat on her lap, and she sewed his hands to his feet and so forth. Her neck bent, her face almost touching her thighs, but for Edward in-between.In Waxy, in a society where Men study Philosophy Books in order to take Exams while supported by their women who work in Factories, a young woman works at a sewing machine factory (painting “NIGHTINGALE” on each machine by hand), and in the final, perhaps strangest story, Notes from a Spider, a celebrated man with a handsome, human face and the body of an arachnid finally finds his equal in an unexpected place:The machine in the window had four legs, like iron plants, a wooden body, a swan-like curved metal neck and a circular platform to run the fabric across, not unlike the plate on a gramophone where the record was placed, and a small mouth with one silver tooth. She was an unusual, modern creature. What beautiful music she must make! Florence was her name, it was stencilled on the shop window. FLORENCE. I sat there in my carriage until it was morning and the shop opened. I hastily purchased her, the one in the window. They asked if I wanted her taken apart, for carrying, but I had her put, as is, in my carriage. I drove through the city, my legs entwined with hers, two of my feet placed on her sole-shaped pedals.I don't know what any of it means, but I liked it. A lot.

  • Jerrie (redwritinghood)
    2019-03-27 22:17

    I am somewhat torn between "this is so-so" and "this is complete genius". The writing is so good, though, that this ultimately had to be at least 4⭐️for me. The stories are strange and often grotesque. Many have the feel of being from another time/place. Frequent appearances by sewing machines, things in tin cans, art, pregnancy and birth, and stupid, lazy and/or arrogant men. Oh! And lists. Lots of lists. And, the doll's alphabet has 11 letters; not sure why.

  • Noelia Alonso
    2019-03-27 02:31

    I enjoyed some stories more than others but in general it was a very interesting short story collection

  • Robert
    2019-03-31 21:26

    Here's the review!

  • Kirsty
    2019-03-24 00:34

    I have serious writer envy. Such incredible world-building, so much darkness, such a command of language. I loved this book and hated it too - it has to be read in short bursts, as the stories are so intense and so unpleasant. I can't wait to read more from Grudova.

  • Doug
    2019-03-22 21:14

    Maybe even a 4.5. "Peter ... slicked his hair back like a young Samuel Beckett, and had the wet, squinting look of an otter." p. 5 I think it was reading that early line in this collection of thirteen (triskaidekaphobians beware!) short (sometimes VERY short) stories when I realized I had fallen under the spell of a truly different and quite special literary artist; although the uniqueness of Grudova's work was somewhat dissipated for me by the fact I read this virtually in one sitting. Read back-to-back, the stories have a sameness in themes, style and motifs that works against how truly sui generis they are; comparisons to everyone from Kafka to Angela Carter to Atwood to David Lynch can attest to just how wide-ranging are her influences. It most reminded me, however, with its sometimes grotesque, often shocking imagery, of a prose version of the classic Der Struwwelpeter, which is indeed name-checked in one of the stories. Not everything works; the titular one sentence long story is an enigmatic head-scratcher (anyone who can explicate what it means, please let me know!), and some stories are either a tad too long, or paradoxically, seem cut off mid-stream. Still wildly enthusiastic about this young writer, and looking forward to the novel she is apparently currently working on.

  • Varsha Ravi
    2019-04-17 02:17

    3.5/5 :)Darkly inventive collection that will stay long after it's been read.For a full review check: received this as a review copy from Coachhouse books, but all opinions are my own.

  • Marie-Therese
    2019-04-06 02:32

    3.5 stars. An odd but frequently very engaging collection of short stories that lightly tread the intersecting borders of magical realism, surrealism, horror, dystopian fiction, and Kafkaesque fantasy. Kafka is clearly an influence on these tales (the "readers guide" at the end of the book notes this explicitly) but there are also strong surrealist touches (Grudova's characters' obsession with sewing machines and their tendency to anthropomorphize them almost inevitably bring to mind Lautreamont's famous line describing a young boy as "beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table”); nods to Isak Dinesen, Angela Carter, and a sense of whimsy and love of canines that seems very Leonora Carrington-like are also evident. Grudova's language tends to be straightforward, even occasionally a bit prosaic and stiff, but her imagination is wild, her eye for detail keen. Post-apocalyptic scenarios make repeated appearances in these stories: animal life is frequently limited to insects and humans, the state has taken over as employer of virtually everyone, hunger is widespread, and deformities and teratogenic births are common. The horror here is more often existential than explicit, but it's disquieting nonetheless and Grudova can be ruthless in depicting it. These aren't happy stories but they're not tragic either-virtually all of the characters featured are survivors; while readers can't predict a happy ending for these individuals, one can generally be certain that they have a future, tough though it may be.This was a very good book that I would recommend not only to fans of the writers I mentioned above but also to those who like Liudmila Petrushévskaia, Rikki Ducornet, Tatyana Tolstaya, Bruno Schulz, even Caitlín R. Kiernan. While I feel Grudova is still in the process of finding her own wholly original voice, this is a strong start and I look forward to reading what she writes in future.

  • H.N.
    2019-04-01 18:13

    Grotesque, lyrical, weird, mundane, spooky. These are all words that describe this very interesting book of short fiction. My father-in-law gave it to me at the end of 2017, stating that it was difficult to find books for me. I am so glad he found *this* one, because it suits me very well. I am sure I will return to it the way I return to Angela Carter.

  • Rodney
    2019-04-17 02:28

    Gorgeous and terrible, these stories move with such dreamlike ardor. The stories are all linked by imagery rather than plot or characters (a sewing machine, for instance, appears in every story--usually in some erotic context). Very, very highly recommended.

  • Heather
    2019-04-10 20:14

    I loved this so much. Truly odd. So weird it gets at the most beautiful truths. If you're into that kind of reading. I will read this a few more times. I'm sure.

  • Katharine
    2019-04-05 02:41

    I adored this grotesque jewel box of a book! Most of these menacing stories take place in a dystopian world similar enough to our own to leave you disquieted. Grudova weaves recurring motifs (among them sewing machines, golden syrup, doll parts, vermin, things packed in tin) and themes (principally the systematic subjugation of women and the desire to mechanize portions of one’s body) throughout these stories, constructing a universe that appears to be the result of commonplace assumptions taken to their furthest logical conclusions. Beautifully embroidered with exquisite and vulgar details, this collection reminded me of nothing more than traveling through a Hannah Hoch photomontage.

  • Anna
    2019-04-14 18:31

    The blurb likens this beautifully presented book of short stories to the work of Angela Carter, which I both agree and disagree with. Aesthetically, there are strong similarities; both are ornately macabre. Philosophically, I found in Grudova’s stories little of Carter’s clever social commentary. My favourite of the collection, ‘Waxy’, was a dark little satire on gender roles, but the others presented grotesque imagery and strange happenings without investing them with a great deal of meaning. I don’t object to this on principle, I just prefer a little more substance. The stories circled back to particular objects, rather than themes: sewing machines, bugs, and babies. The treatment of babies as grotesque objects was pretty uncomfortable, possibly because I’ve never wanted to have one. I did like Grodova’s knack for evoking cheap and horrible rented rooms. Her worlds are unusually squalid for gothic fiction, which does make them interestingly distinctive. They have an air of entropy and irresistible decline comparable to In the Country of Last Things, a favourite novel of mine. Although I appreciated these settings, the stories didn’t do very much with them. The preoccupation with objects seemed to result in a lack of the structural discipline which sets truly great short stories apart. (The best examples being those of Borges.) Only one, ‘The Moth Emporium’, ends in a narratively satisfying manner. I am probably harsher towards short story collections than novels because my preference is for the latter; I most likely wouldn’t have read ‘The Doll’s Alphabet’ if I hadn’t been given a copy as a present. Nonetheless, I did enjoy these stories and would be interested to read more of Grudova’s work.

  • Sam (Clues and Reviews)
    2019-04-01 01:32

    The Doll’s Alphabet, the upcoming short story collection by Camilla Grudova, was something completely different from anything I have encountered recently. These stories, thirteen in total, are dark and eerie with some sort of childlike quality about them; they are almost fairy tale like in nature; each story sending a message and all provoking caution. I was bewildered while I was reading. I found myself continuously pondering that perhaps I wasn’t smart enough to “get” these stories and spending the rest of my time thinking “Wait…WHAT??!”This short story collection felt like something I would have studied in university; filled with motifs and symbolism, I really liked how Grudova took several political stances throughout and discussed feminism. Very much like the Southern Gothic style of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Conner, these stories read like they came from a different time period. Unstitching, the short but powerful opening story begins with women literally “unzipping” and coming out of their skin. It is only then that they feel liberated and the men are outraged to see their women so unhinged. Does this make sense? Nope! Do I think it is pretty awesome? Absolutely. That question ran through my mind constantly as I was reading. Does this make sense? Does this make sense? What about this makes sense? And, truly, none of her stories really do. They are purely whimsical and fantastic calling on dollhouses and mermaids and talking spiders. This magic realism is something I am not used to but found really interesting during the time I was reading. Usually, I like a short story collection because I can read it slowly and pick it up when I feel like it, but, with The Doll’s Alphabet, I found myself reading fairly quickly.Overall, I found this collection intriguing and dynamic.

  • Dea
    2019-04-03 21:37

    A book of absolute nightmares, I can't imagine I'll have normal dreams for a month. I probably shouldn't have enjoyed this as much as I did...

  • Røbert
    2019-04-16 18:39

    This is an incredibly good book! -- once again Fitzcarraldo Editions have brought my attention to some of the freshest, exciting and inventive writing being written today. A collection of linked short stories linked by common motifs, each one is a perfectly crafted surreal gothic gem which combine into what is set to be one of my favourite books of 2017 (it is only January, but I'm confident of this).The stories are dark and disturbing, in settings which are close enough to our own world to resonate, but faraway enough to twist and distort physiological and social norms. They are populated by recurring sewing machines, sardines, abandoned shops, bad births, pests, books, tins, wax... But above all ordinary people in nightmarishly drab environments under societal systems which are never spelt out. The writing is alive, uncompromising and constantly surprising -- I can't recommend this book enough.

  • Ula
    2019-03-31 19:14

    Gothy, freakish, dystopian tales in many ways right up my alley. Would recommend reading it on a grey winter day though. It seems almost wrong to read the stories in the hot summer sun.

  • Julie
    2019-04-05 01:30

    First things first, this is my first ever review of a collection of short stories. And what a sublime collection this is. I’m just going to throw out a few words that I connect with The Doll’s Alphabet and try to stitch together my thoughts afterwards.Unusual, dizzying, strange, surreal, creepy, absurd, sexual, macabre, destabilizing. Got your attention?After reading the first few stories, I wondered if they were all going to be along the same vein and, sure enough, they were. One dizzying, peculiar tale after the next. At first, I kept on reading out of sheer curiosity, wondering how deep and dark these stories would get. Then, I just wanted more. Camilla Grudova’s imagination is at times terrifyingly grotesque and I felt like a voyeur, entering her private cabinet of curiosities. I’ve never read anything quite like The Doll’s Alphabet before -ever.There are many recurring objects throughout The Doll’s Alphabet; sewing machines, doll parts, vermin and also some disturbing sexual acts. There is definitely a sense of loneliness to this collection mixed in with an abundance of what I can only explain as griminess yet it radiated something very feminine and delicate.As I’d read one story, I’d think… did she just write that ? How did she even think that up ? Each story took me to a beautiful yet horrible place. I get that this is quite a niche type of book, and won’t fit everyone’s taste but I’m so glad I discovered Camilla Grudova’s writing. I’ve re-read my favorite stories within The Doll’s Alphabet many times, unearthing new and curious things with each new reading.

  • Natalie (weneedhunny)
    2019-03-20 23:40

    The Doll’s Alphabet is a short story collection of the weird, fantastical and bizarre. Within these stories you will find reoccurring images and objects like sewing machines, tinned foods, dolls, wolves, and more. While each short story stands on its own, there are apparent parallels between them so that not only is certain objects binding the stories together but there’s even at times what seemed to me, shadows of people from other stories – swiftly passing by in the periphery. In many of the stories, we see evidence of Grudova’s explosive imagination – some of the ideas are so clever, it’s a pure joy to experience. Aside from the bright ideas, there are moments of strong craftsmanship too in the writing. Some lines flow like they could only fit in that particular order, like these clauses were meant to stand together. But what will most likely determine your reaction to the collection as a whole is your hunger for – and/or threshold of – the grotesque, taboo and eccentric.Full Review:

  • Mac Marland
    2019-03-24 01:14

    I am a big fan of magical realism as in Murakami and Karen Russell. This book is more like magical dystopia. This short volume of short stories, one only several several sentences, is a series of Kafka-esque tone poems, connected by shared iconographies such as sewing machines, insects, mustaches. While I applaud the author for creating something completely different, I did not care for it. I am sure there are some who will, and if you enjoy the genre of magical realism you might want to give this one a try.

  • Bill Hsu
    2019-03-26 20:33

    Some dark and magic ideas here. I quite enjoyed the short pieces, and "Agata's Machine" is obsessive and memorable. But the writing does tend to get in the way, in the rest.

  • Heather
    2019-04-20 00:36

    Wow! Have you ever been to one of those restaurants where you're not sure what you're eating but each dish is a taste sensation? You stop and just marvel and ask "what IS IN this?" That's what this compilation is like. Her command of language, imagery and theme are beyond admirable. I found myself pausing over the use of language again and again. My favorite stories were Agata's Machine and Rhinoceros; I think I missed the point of Mermaid. There's a lot of unpack here and several stories could warrant multiple readings. These rootless stories feel a little like traveling; you never know what is going to happen and that is the joy and the menace. Also worth mentioning that these stories remind me of the incredible work of Shaun Tan, the author and illustrator

  • Sara
    2019-03-24 02:26

    Picked this up after previewing the first paragraphs of the short story "Unstitching". The night before I opened the book, I dreamt I'd birthed a botched fetus in a rotting bathroom stall, and in all honesty, that dream wouldn't have been out of place in this collection. Reading Grudova's short stories made me feel I was tripping acid while looking at the Eine Kleine Nachtmusik painting... but more dreary interiors, drab clothing and creepy sewing machines. Dark, unsettling, sticky kind of vibe. Totally into it.

  • Rebecca Lloyd
    2019-04-08 00:40

    The Doll’s AlphabetWhile reading this extraordinary and utterly ‘feral’ set of short stories by Camilla Grudova, I was reminded of Eraserhead, David Lynch’s first feature length film. The same gritty, dark, relentlessness runs throughout Grudova’s set of stories as it does so beautifully in Eraserhead. The Doll’s Alphabet also brought to my thinking the fabulous and twisted paintings on glass by Katie Timoshenko, one of which hangs in my hallway and frightens my grandson when he stays in the house, [] And, of course, the art work of Bunny Mazhari drifted into my thoughts very readily. [] From time to time during my reading of the book, Jane Bowles’ work came to mind as well. I see similarities between the two writers in that both strike a certain naïve sounding tone which adds an extra layer of queerness to the atmosphere of their stories, and both are comfortable with the absurd, perhaps Grudova more so, as certainly in the story, Edward, Do Not Pamper the Dead, I found the kind of glorious disregard of anything attempting to resemble ‘reality’ as we live it, gone.You could not slot this book easily into any genre, and I am delighted to be able to say that, as genre work is, on the whole, so very stultifying. Of course what Grudova is writing is fantasy, but the genre we call ‘fantasy’ is made up of two dimensional stock characters and oceans full of clichés, and Grudova’s writing, like that of Anna Tambour’s, [], is utterly unique—a rare, and much appreciated attribute to find in a modern writer. My favourite of these thirteen stories is Waxy which has a particular dream-like quality to it, in fact it resembled dreams I have myself. Should there be readers out there, and I hope there are, who are looking for the extraordinary, you’ll find it The Doll’s Alphabet.