Smart, sharp and profound: ‘How the Light Gets In’ by Clare Fisher


There really is no excuse for how long it’s taken me to get round to writing about Fisher’s short story collection.  The delay is certainly not because of any doubt on my part that this book should be raved about and shared.  It’s more to do with my response to the richness of the literary experience it provides.

By richness in this case, I don’t mean any kind of over-indulgent or syrupy prose style, simply that reading one of Fisher’s short stories is a bit like eating the darkest of dark chocolates.  So rich and heady you feel the need to pause, reflect, and keep your impressions to yourself for a while for fear of sounding foolish.

As the collection itself knows however, the real would is full of people trying to keep their inner thoughts to themselves and the internet equally full of people sounding foolish – ‘righteous in … capitalised certainty that the wrong things are all outside.’  The problem is that, as the book’s title suggests, there are always cracks between the inside and outside while certainty itself can be temporary and elusive.

If these feel like weighty themes, they are given a surprising lift by the precision of the setting.  The book is resolutely modern: in the first section (‘Learning to live with Cracks’) is a piece entitled ‘things smartphones make you less likely to do when alone, in a public place’, later on, in ‘How the Light gets between You and Me,’ is its companion, ‘things smartphones make you less likely to do when in a private place, with or without other people.’  Fisher does not write about generalised isolation, but about 21st century isolation and the small victories in her characters’ lives are more likely to be sparked by online dating profiles or eating fried chicken than any more romantic, ‘time-less’ experiences of nature or society.

It is this relevance that makes the collection feel so striking – the paraphernalia and vocabulary of modern life forcing home the ideas and characters by bringing them down to earth no matter how complex or difficult the subject matter.  As someone consciously seeking comforting reads at the moment, I’m aware of the apparent contradiction in recommending a book that deals explicitly with darkness and depression.  Revisiting key ideas from her debut novel ‘All the Good Things‘ however, Fisher’s short stories temper darkness with light and show how recognising joy is a part of understanding sadness.  In fact, she expresses it so well that there is no point me trying myself – and I’ll end with a beautiful quotation from the story ‘What Women Want’:

‘Now I just want to hold on to this feeling that I’m here and it’s good that I’m here and that here shakes you up, here holds you down; here is confusing and strange and dark and difficult – here is never quite ready but, nevertheless, good.  And so here I an, hoarding it, boxing it up, ready for me to unwrap and gorge myself on the next time I feel low and flat and unplugged.’

I received a copy of ‘How the Light Gets In’ from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

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2 Responses to Smart, sharp and profound: ‘How the Light Gets In’ by Clare Fisher

  1. Ste J says:

    Now this sounds good, there hasn’t really been any book tackling 21st century life (in my reading experience) that has actually had much of an impact but this one sounds like it is certainly worth taking the time to read.

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