Tag: Maxine Beneda Clarke

Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneda Clarke

Posted June 25, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Short Stories / 2 Comments

Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneda ClarkeTitle: Foreign Soil (Goodreads)
Author: Maxine Beneda Clarke
Published: Hachette, 2014
Pages: 272
Genres: Short Stories
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: Book Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneda Clarke is a collection of short stories that has set out to give a voice to the disenfranchised, the lost, downtrodden and even the mistreated. A collection of contemporary fiction that resulted from winning the Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Award in 2013. In fact in the final story ‘The Sukiyaki Book Club’ Clarke appears to have drawn from her own struggles to get published in what appears to be the only autobiographical story in this collection.

I am never really sure how to review a collection of short stories; if I focus on one or two stories I feel like I’m not giving a balanced review, and if I wrote a little on every story this review will be too long. I normally adopt a generalised view with short stories and just hit a few points; it isn’t effective but I feel like it is the only way I know how to do it. Foreign Soil however has something else to it that makes it tricky to review.

One of the great things about Foreign Soil is that Maxine Beneda Clarke has managed to capture a very unique voice. She has found a style that works really well for her but I was more impressed just how diverse her voice could be. The stories follow characters living in Sydney, Melbourne, Mississippi, Jamaica, Sudan and so on, yet all the voices felt real and unique to what we think of with their nationalities. When the characters’ vernacular sounds like they have an accent and the way you expect; it almost has a phonetic quality about it.

That is not to say there is anything stereotypical about the characters, I don’t know much about the cultures written but they all feel genuine. The dialogue is one of the best qualities about this collection; from their broken English, accents and small quirks, each character’s strengths come from the skill Clarke has in giving them a voice.

It is hard to imagine that there was no place for Maxine Beneda Clarke in the publishing world. Foreign Soil has a place in the literary world, Clarke challenges the Anglo-Saxon dominance and gives a voice to the somewhat voiceless. This collection of short stories will leave you pondering life and justice as well as explore ideas of hope and despair. It is nice to read a book full of non-Caucasian ethnic groups exploring real life issues.

Foreign Soil is a wonderful collection of short stories; Maxine Beneda Clarke has stormed into the literary world swinging and I’m excited to see what she does next. I believe that her prize for winning the Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Award involved a three-book deal. In the works is a memoir, hopefully similar to ‘The Sukiyaki Book Club’, which has the current working title of The Hate Race, then I believe there is also a novel coming called Asphyxiation. Foreign Soil is the type of collection that makes me excited for the future of the Australian publishing industry; I recommend you experience it if you get a chance.