Snow and Shadow by Dorothy Tse

Snow and Shadow by Dorothy TseSnow and Shadow by Dorothy Tse
Published by east slope publishing on January 1, 1970
Genres: Magical Realism, Short Stories
Pages: 209
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.
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Dorothy Tse's stories sometimes start in a vein of innocent realism, but she invariably brings us up short with an abrupt twist: dreamscapes descend and the pages become populated with ever weirder characters. Not only do strange things happen, they are juxtaposed in ways that confound all logical expectations. This collection of 13 short stories is not for the faint-hearted -- violent and sensual elements abound and limbs, even heads, are lopped off with alarming regularity. Yet scenes are sometimes so outrageous that they make us laugh, and Dorothy's bold thematic and narrative experiments yield results that are alternately beguiling and deeply disturbing.


The stories in Snow and Shadow are so, so bizarre, but in that delicious way that leaves you excited to discover what the author has come up with next. Grounded in reality yet dreamlike, each is surprisingly accessible. I was never left feeling lost or puzzled, though I did find I needed to take a little breather here and there, rather than read the collection straight through.

These stories show off Dorothy Tse’s endless creativity and originality. “Woman Fish” is a Kafkaesque story about feeling trapped after a major transformation. In “Leaf and Knife,” a couple competes with one another to prove their love in a senseless, ridiculous quest for the exciting, early stage of their relationship. “Traveling Family” is about relocation and finding one’s own definition of “home.” The title story, “Snow and Shadow,” is a horrifying fairy tale, complete with human faces sewn on animals. “Black Cat City” is more of a thriller with a mythological feel, about people losing their memories (its characters are cleverly named Recall, Memoria, Prolongia).

Translated from the original Chinese by Nicky Harman, Dorothy Tse’s short story collection is challenging and provocative. Sometimes terrifying, often surreal, always containing hidden truths, these stories give each reader plenty of room to come away with his or her own interpretation. Fans of Aimee Bender, Tessa Mellas, or the stories in xo Orpheus will want to be sure to grab a copy of Snow and Shadow.