The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night – Jen Campbell – 2017 – Short Stories
Stories of family and magic, lost souls and superstitions. Spirits in jam jars, mini-apocalypses, animal hearts and side shows.
Mermaids are on display at the local aquarium. A girl runs a coffin hotel on a remote island. And a couple are rewriting the history of the world in the middle of the night.
I often watch Jen Campbell’s YouTube channel, and I’m a big fan of her. I particularly enjoy her videos about disability and its representation in different media. So when she said that she was writing a new book for adults, I was really interested to read it. It’s a really sweet collection of fairy-tale-esque short stories, many of which have aspects of disability or being “different”.
My favourite stories in the book were The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night, or Aunt Libby’s Coffin Hotel. The first was written in a script style and this made it really unique from the rest of the book. It was the easiest story to read and get absorbed in, and it was quite sweet to read about a couple having cute conversations in the middle of the night. Aunt Libby’s story was my favourite story for plot. It’s about an old lady who owns a hotel where the guests sleep in coffins to get closer to ‘the other side’. The hotel is supposed to be haunted and although it is supposed to be a scam, there is a spooky twist at the end.
My least favourite story was probably Margaret and Mary and the End of the World, or Bright White Hearts. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the writing, but I just didn’t really understand the references, as I’m not really into fantasy and fairy tales. The writing in the book is truly magical, so it was a bit of a shame I didn’t understand them. On Jen’s youtube channel she has talked about the stories a bit and some of the references, and I’d love to read the stories again and read them a bit more slowly to fully understand the references and be able to research them properly.
I really loved the cover of this book. I think it might be one of the most beautiful books I’ve seen. I think there was a day cover and a night cover when people talked about this on Booktube, but I’ve only seen the night cover so far – I prefer that one anyway!
I rated this book 3 / 5 on Goodreads. I would recommend the book to people who like fairy tales, and the writing is truly beautiful. I think if I’d understand the references more I’d definitely have given it a higher rating.