The Odditorium

Written by Melissa Pritchard
Review by Tamela McCann

The title for The Odditorium fits this slim book of short stories nicely, as most of the tales are indeed quite odd and very clever. Ranging from folk stories (“Pelagia”) to World War II (“Captain Brown and the Royal Victoria Military Hospital”) to almost present day (“The Nine-Gated City”), the settings are as varied as to be almost extreme, but all the stories carry undertones of darkness that will creep into your soul and plant their desperate seeds deep within.

Decidedly literary in style, many of the stories in The Odditorium have their genesis in reality, with “Watanya Ciclia” (based on the entwined lives of Annie Oakley and Sitting Bull) making perhaps the best use of known historical facts. While this reader is not normally enamored with literary fiction, I found myself thoroughly engaged with the stories like “Captain Brown and the Royal Victoria Military Hospital,” with its depth of detail and its intricate layering of the main character. However, there are some disturbing elements throughout many of the stories, including necrophilia, that I found distasteful, though that is my personal disinclination. In addition, these stories are not light, easy reads; time must be devoted to absorb the complexities of the storylines. Most delightful, however, is the author’s appealing use of intellectual vocabulary which pulls the reader into the lives of her characters. These are indeed stories that will stay with me for a long while, and I’ve no doubt I will be revisiting them to glean new interpretations in the future.