Updated on November 3, 2016
55. ‘The Fahrenheit Twins’ by Michel Faber
A missing man wanders the streets with his life history written on his shirt. A recovering drug addict takes her son to the pool. A talented surgeon must operate on the dictator who sent her to a forced labour camp. A wealthy man has an unusual commission for his taxidermist. This collection of stories traverses the globe and pushes at the edges of reality to create a truly compelling read.
There is a really good mixture of different types of story in this collection. Some of them have a strong magical realism element (such as the opening story ‘The Safehouse’), some are quite sci-fi (like ‘The Eyes of the Soul’), some are clearly influenced by fairytale (like the titular story ‘The Fahrenheit Twins’), and some are starkly realistic (such as ‘Serious Swimmers’). This probably means that you’re bound to find at least one story you like here, or you might be like me and love them all.
I really can’t think of a weak link in this collection. Even though each of the stories is written in a very different style from the others, they are all able to capture your attention from the first line and keep it to the last. And despite all their stylistic differences, there are common threads throughout this collection: gritty humanity is explored through razor-sharp writing, and Faber often confronts the darkest aspects of the human psyche. Perhaps the most profound example of this is ‘The Smallness of the Action’, about a new mother who feels her baby is making her lose her mind and her identity, and who ends up taking drastic action to save herself. So many of these stories are just gut-wrenching, and Faber’s incredible writing is able to cut right to the heart of the characters’ concerns and motivations, and force the reader to really feel.
Towards the end of the collection we get ‘Vanilla-Bright Like Eminem’, which lingers over the happiest moment of one man’s life before rocketing forwards to show what the future has in store for him. The final story is ‘The Fahrenheit Twins’ and it is the longest in the collection; it is about a family who live in an Arctic exploration station, and the twins who roam free over the snowy wasteland and create rituals that they hope will stop them from growing up.
I really can’t recommend this collection enough. It is edgy and clever and difficult and absorbing, and I loved it.
“No one could begin to understand the violence that was done to her mind and spirit every day, the way her soul was tenderised by a thousand hammer blows delivered with instinctive accuracy and force by a furious little fist.” – ‘The Smallness of the Action’
Have you read this book or are you planning to? I’d love to know your thoughts!
Want to read this? You can buy the book here.