If reading can feel like a hand reaching out and taking yours (as Alan Bennett memorably put it), it’s still rare to encounter a debut with a grip this sure. Young Chilean writer Paulina Flores leads you with such cool confidence through her nine stories that I can’t wait to follow wherever she goes next ... feels particularly timely ... A number of stories are written from the perspective of children, and are so saturated with misunderstandings and swollen emotions that they really do transport you backwards. Flores perfectly captures how silly things and life-changingly serious ones can acquire the same weight for a child trying to make sense of a grown-up world ... But while her characters often flounder amid unspoken subtext, Flores exposes the complex workings of even the most off-hand human interactions ... There’s a masterly steadiness to her writing: no flash or dash, but neat psychological insight and understated, sometimes drily funny storytelling. There are also some killer twists. For all that she eschews high drama, I still physically winced a couple of times ... Flores writes convincingly about sex (a rare feat), allowing both roughness and tenderness ... Flores’s stories work just as they are, but the way she sustains this one over nearly 70 pages made me hope there’s a full-length novel on the way.
These are stealthy stories, all in their different ways quite shocking. Here, very definitely, the ‘sins’ of fathers and mothers are visited upon their daughters and sons. Parental sacrifice, failure, disappointment and compromise are seen through unforgiving eyes and tracked through their side-effects on the next generation.
McDowell presents an agile translation ... With conflicts personal and communal in a land in the grip of tyranny, Flores dramatizes difficult situations that are vividly specific and resonantly universal.
Flores’s strong debut collection provides an intimate look at characters in a Chile brimming with desperation and misfortune ... With ever-changing narrative perspectives, Flores’s intense stories are tied together with dark, palpable emotion, portraying characters trapped in circumstances beyond their control. This is a challenging, impressive collection.
Flores has won several prizes in her native Chile, and it’s not hard to see why: Her prose (deftly translated by McDowell) is fluid and assured. But there’s a sameness to these stories that can sometimes dip down into blandness. The narrators' voices are too similar; even as the characters differ in age, gender, and circumstance, each narrator sounds just like the last ... In other stories, Flores seems to strive for a hard-edged—even harsh—tone, but here, she borders on precious ... At other times, Flores runs into the opposite mistake. Trying to avoid sentimentality, she goes too far and misses out on real feeling ... This collection marks the arrival of an interesting young writer, if not a fully developed one.