Reading this has been a long time coming. I think I’ve owned it for a couple of years, but I’ve never quite got there before now… mostly because I knew that once I had read it, I would have read it, and then it wouldn’t be sitting there waiting to be read.
Yes, sometimes my brain is weird.
TL;DR: totally, totally worth it; wonderful and strange and making me moon-eyed. It is indeed like reading those fairy tales that were deemed Not Really Fit for young children and discovering that THAT is where the good stuff is.
Almost all of the narratives in this collection are connected in some way to other stories. Sometimes this is explicit: there are a couple of families for whom generations get stories. Others are more round-about, as a passing character in one gets developed in another. This goes too, of course, for The Bitterwood Bible in which Slatter has written prequel stories, of sorts. The fact that I read Bitterwood first meant I got to see some of the places where she went back and filled in gaps, fleshed out history, made connections clearer. The upshot is that reading the stories is a bit like moving to a small town. You meet one person and then another and only a few months later do you discover that those two have History; and then over time all the rest of the connections come tumbling out – except some of them still stay hidden, teased at the edge of perception. Sourdough and the world that Slatter has created here is exactly like that.
One of the things I fiercely love about the stories here and in Bitterwood is the focus on women – and that they are so very varied. Women are daughters, mothers, lovers, wives, friends, neighbours, enemies; they are skilled, bored, frustrated, vengeful, magical, lost, bewildered, smart, sacrificial, victims and heroes. They are human.
Seriously, just read this. Come back and thank me later.