*** Longlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize 2013 ***
Sudden, shattering moments of realisation; creeping, gradual self-awareness – Catching the Barramundi is a collection of contemporary short stories charting the dichotomous processes of reassessment and reflection. The settings vary, but the characters in each tale experience moments of introspection and self-scrutiny, quite out of step with their daily lives.
* ‘Catching the Barramundi’ follows Connie, who lives alone in an isolated store in Australia’s Northern Territory, following the death of her husband. The arrival of Martyn – there to catch the local barramundi – awakens in her repressed feelings about her past, her children, and her life ahead.
* ‘Snails on the Road’ addresses the nature and longevity of love, seen from a child’s perspective, and the fragility of the family unit.
* ‘Hades Landing’ is about returning home and the oxymoronic fragility of foundations. Lance returns to Hades Landing, a town in Canada’s Northwest Territories where he was raised. The town has been recently bulldozed to the ground by a mining company. Lance’s profession as an ice hockey player characterises him; he lives life at a fast pace with little in the way of commitments keeping him in one place. But he is undone by the sight of his demolished old town and finds the reality difficult to process.
* ‘The Mirror Man’ is a story about perception and the individual’s search for a truthful identity. Denny and her brother are at a local pub, where she spies a man who was once in a pop group popular when Denny was a teen. He is now much older and seedier. Working up the courage to speak to him, Denny tries to adopt a persona as a sexually alluring woman, but finds it difficult to maintain.
* ‘Loving Enid’ charts the development of a relationship and the tenderness of the mundane. From their first meeting, to their honeymoon, to the birth of their child, Enid continues to intrigue and inspire Gary.
* ‘The Night of the Fox’ is about the desire to belong and a child’s yearning to be treasured. Albie and Archie, grieving and unsettled after their parents separation, discover their father’s old tent and decide to camp out in the back garden. Their mother is detached and disinterested in her sons, and the tent becomes their small retreat from a painful reality.
* ‘A Room for Freya’ charts the resistance and gradual acceptance of a mother and father, confronted with the knowledge that their daughter is nearing the end of her life.
* ‘Philip Turpin Gets a Girl’ is an evocative imagining of life in a factory town. Unspoken resentments, unarticulated rules by which the community lives; these are the silent lines controlling the lives and interactions of the factory workers. The arrival of a Polish woman shakes the equilibrium; Magda refuses to adhere to the social dictates and, through her passionate encounter with Philip, shows him that a different sort of life is possible.
* ‘Island Honeymoon’ is an exploration of love and grief. Kate and Andy come to a Scottish Hebridian island for their honeymoon, though the story reveals that their holiday is more of an escape than a romantic encounter.
* ‘The Butterfly’ explores a family’s fragility, made weak by unspoken resentments and secrets. Gemma and her family visit a butterfly farm where tensions between relatives become clear. Gemma and her mother have a symbiotic, loving bond, which is in sharp contrast to her fracturous relationship with her husband.
* ‘Painting the Hay Bales’ is about distance between family members. Michael is self-centred, wealthy, and unable to commit to his girlfriend. His father calls to share the news of a fire at their farm with his son and seek comfort, but Michael’s first response is to offer cash.
* Also features ‘The Intruder’ – nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2011.
“an interesting, coherent and well structured debut” (Adrian Slatcher, Sabotage Reviews)
“The intimacy of these stories, and the easy flow of the narratives, made me feel as though I were a privileged voyeur in one little portion of the lives of these folks–in my opinion, this is arguably the most important attribute of good storytelling.” ***** (Terry Rogers)
“Delving into a collection of beautifully-written short stories is a bit like being presented with a selection box of luscious chocolates: once you’ve tasted one, it’s tempting to polish off the lot at one sitting. However, as with those posh chocs, Rebecca Burns’ succulent assortment is an indulgence to be savoured.” ***** (Janet)