Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Schweblin has a talent for leaving the reader feeling as though they’ve been spun around multiple times and then left to fend off the resultant dizziness by themselves. Similar to Schweblin’s previous collaboration with translator Megan McDowell, Fever Dream, Mouthful of Birds has an eerie air about it – you never feel one hundred percent comfortable reading it before bed.
The first story, Headlights, sets the tone for the rest of the collection. I paused reading the book for a minute afterwards to allow myself to process it as I was not expecting it to possess such an oppressive sense of unease. However, each story continued to blow me away until around the half way point, with some of my favourites being the titular story Mouthful of Birds, Preserves, Butterflies and The Test. I must admit, some of the stories in the second half were slightly weaker for me, but still very good as far as short stories go.
Having never read anything that blends the supernatural, magical realism, psychology and reality together so expertly before, I was shocked and pleasantly surprised by the way Schweblin writes. At no point throughout my reading of the book did I predict what would happen next, leaving me consistently feeling on edge.
The final story in the collection, The Heavy Suitcase of Benavides particularly stood out to me for the overwhelming Twin Peaks vibe it held for me. Furthermore, I interpreted it as a commentary on the sensationalism of death and murder in the media. There are countless television shows and films surrounding famous serial killers and currently there are women my age swooning over Ted Bundy, which is quite frankly, a bit weird, and in my opinion, somewhat unhealthy and consequently needs to be discussed.
The collaboration between Schweblin and her English translator Megan McDowell is an extremely successful one and I sincerely hope they continue to work together in the future, so I can devour more of their suspenseful works of art.
I would thoroughly recommend both Fever Dream and Mouthful of Birds, especially if you enjoy magical realism that is leaning more towards the creepy or supernatural side. However, if you are someone who struggles with descriptions of death, blood, animal cruelty etc, then I would steer clear of this one as it does contain quite a few grisly moments within it.
If anyone has any recommendations for books in a similar vein to this one, please let me know, as I greatly enjoyed the short story format.