The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night

'These days, you can find anything you need at the click of a button.That's why I bought her heart online.'Spirits in jam jars, mini-apocalypses, animal hearts and side shows.A girl runs a coffin hotel on a remote island.A boy is worried his sister has two souls.A couple are rewriting the history of the world. And mermaids are on display at the local aquarium.The Beginning...

Title:The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night
Author:
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night Reviews

  • TheSkepticalReader

    Review originally posted on

    .

    A quick and delightful book of short tales of wonder, magic, and fairytale. Jen Campbell’s passion for storytelling, myths & magic, fairytales, and histories shone through these stories. As an amateurish short story/fairytale reader, this was an enjoyable journey out of my comfort zone.

    Stories as follows:

    ◗ Animals - 4✨ | A story that begins with the arrival of a heart in a box. Love the immersion of fairytale, myth, and history. The peculiaritie

    Review originally posted on

    .

    A quick and delightful book of short tales of wonder, magic, and fairytale. Jen Campbell’s passion for storytelling, myths & magic, fairytales, and histories shone through these stories. As an amateurish short story/fairytale reader, this was an enjoyable journey out of my comfort zone.

    Stories as follows:

    ◗ Animals - 4✨ | A story that begins with the arrival of a heart in a box. Love the immersion of fairytale, myth, and history. The peculiarities of the world, with the harvesting of hearts, were fascinating. By the end, I almost wanted the narrator to keep doing the horrid things they were just to see how far it could go.

    ◗ Jacob - 3✨ | A young boy writes a letter, talking about his sister and his life. I’m not completely sure how I feel about this one. I really liked the connection to Schrödinger’s cat and the exploration of our origins but felt a bit underwhelmed in some ways.

    ◗ Plum pie. Zombie green. Yellow bee. Purple Monster - 2✨ | Characters communicating in HTML colour codes with fairytale magic. I thought I would adore this one but the jarring narration didn’t click. Too many breaks and shifts suppressed what would’ve been a favorite.

    ◗ In the Dark - 3✨ | A strange visitor walks into the narrator’s home. This was surprisingly better than I expected. It gives one a lot to consider and while I can easily see why many might not like this one as strongly, I personally liked the speculating it inspires.

    ◗ Margaret and mary and the end of the world - 5✨ | A woman is visited by the angel Gabriel to inform her she’s been impregnated by God. I thought the part recounting the fairytale was a bit on the nose but I loved this one; it’s easily one of the best. It has a believable, complete narrator and a wonderful feminist touch.

    ◗ Little Deaths - 4✨ | A town full of ghosts. This one spoke about memory, loss, and relationships in a way that many could relate to. Throughout the story I had this vivid image of translucent white shadows walking amongst us as we go about our everyday human activities (such as grocery shopping or going to work). It is vivid and meaningful but I’m also disappointed that it was so short.

    ◗ The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night - 5✨ | A couple discuss beginnings and endings in the middle of the night. The story is entirely told in dialogue and was reminiscent of

    . It’s charming, mysterious, and funny—all with a touch of melancholy.

    ◗ Pebbles - 3✨ | A lesbian love story about love, hate, and war. They say love and hate are two sides of the same coin and this story explores the parallels of such passionate emotions.

    ◗ Aunt Libby’s Coffin Hotel - 5✨ | The title explains the premise quite well here. I loved this one. It has all the makings of a fantastical and gothic story with just the right amount of tension to keep one turning pages. I could’ve easily read a whole novel like this (secretly hoping she expands this story into novel form someday).

    ◗ Sea Devils - 2✨ | Two characters spend a summer killing crabs (as stated by the first sentence). This felt like a story that had a lot more to say than it did. Unfortunately, it’s one I liked the least.

    ◗ Human Satellites - 5✨ | On the discovery of a planet called The Hours. Another favorite tale in the collection. Humanity’s reactions are expectantly defiant, humorous, and endearing.

    ◗ Bright White Hearts - 4✨ | This addresses deformity and the relationship between the normal and the ‘abnormal’ (as detestable as the word is) in an special way that I loved reading. A solid ending to the collection overall.

  • Kirsty

    Well, that was amazing.

  • Katie Lumsden

    I thoroughly enjoyed this - beautifully written, with a great mix of fantastical, surreal and more realist stories. My favourite story was probably 'Jacob', but the title story, 'The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night' was definitely a close second.

  • Kaitlin

    * I was sent this for free from the publisher *

    This book is one I have been highly anticipating since I first followed Jen on Youtube as she's a wonderful lady filled with bizarre but beautiful ideas. I just knew this collection would be one I really enjoyed, and there was so much in this that I couldn't help but to adore. It's wacky, whimsy, and very wonderful too. Each story felt distinct and even the very short short ones had a story to tell. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who en

    * I was sent this for free from the publisher *

    This book is one I have been highly anticipating since I first followed Jen on Youtube as she's a wonderful lady filled with bizarre but beautiful ideas. I just knew this collection would be one I really enjoyed, and there was so much in this that I couldn't help but to adore. It's wacky, whimsy, and very wonderful too. Each story felt distinct and even the very short short ones had a story to tell. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys magical realism or poetry as these stories have a dream-like stream of consciousness flowing throughout them. I just adored some of them, and other ones made me really think. It was a great mixture and hopefully there's something for everyone here, as long as you like a bit of oddity.

    I updated my thoughts for most of the stories as I went so I will re-list them below:

    Pebbles - an LGBTQ+ story which related the chaos of the world with the love that can also be found. Fairly short but enjoyable and thought-provoking still. 3.5*s

    Aunt Libby's Coffin Hotel - this one was steeped in mythology and deceit and I have to say I very much enjoyed (and was disturbed by) the idea of staying in a coffin hotel! 4*

    The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night - a conversation between two people called Julian and Evelyn and the beginnings they remember and recreate in the darkness of night. Loved this one :) 5*s

    Margaret and Mary and the end of the world - the amount of cleverly woven references and art work within this story was just superb. I think it is one of my favourites in the collection. 4.5*s and definitely a vivid one with some fun tongue-twisty moments and distribution on fairy-tales I know

    In the Dark - a short tale about a soldier visiting a woman and her encounter. Bit odd for me and a bit short so couldn't take as much from this one 2.5*s

    Plum Pie. Zombie Green. Yellow Bee. Purple Monster. - This one was a story about a camp where children can go if they've sprouted plants in their bodies. It was the most easy to visualise of the stories so far, and I would for sure read about entire novel on the theme as this felt like a snippet. 4.5*s

    Jacob - a letter-based story from the POV of a young boy writing to a stranger, Miss Winter, who is the weather lady. This one felt very much like stream of consciousness and yet asked lots of big questions I too would have liked to answer to. A heartfelt story, if a subtle one. 4*s

    Animals - Fairytale inspired, grim and peculiar. Curious and quirky. Twisty, turny. I really, really enjoyed this. It had a sense of familiar with a sense of strange. Definitely my kind of story 4.5*s.

    There were three other final stories which I read at the end and didn't update individually on, but the final story in the collection felt so raw and real to me. I think if you know Jen at all you can see some of her in each story, but the final one felt particularly real to me and I definitely loved that one so I gave it 5*s - Bright White Hearts

    Overall I would say this is well worth buying for the combined beautiful cover and marvellous stories. if you get a chance to meet Jen at a signing or anything else you should definitely get this one, it was excellent. 4.5*s

  • Dannii Elle

    This is perhaps the strangest and most beautiful anthology I have ever read. Strange and beautiful in equal measure, as the two battle each other for dominance in this expertly delivered series of short tales.

    Each of the stories, contained within, had a bizarre focus and a whimsical vibe that made this an abstract and surreal insight to life. This crooked view of the world somehow made the everyday chaos of our own reality make a little more sense and provided an alternative approach to dealing

    This is perhaps the strangest and most beautiful anthology I have ever read. Strange and beautiful in equal measure, as the two battle each other for dominance in this expertly delivered series of short tales.

    Each of the stories, contained within, had a bizarre focus and a whimsical vibe that made this an abstract and surreal insight to life. This crooked view of the world somehow made the everyday chaos of our own reality make a little more sense and provided an alternative approach to dealing with the truth by approaching it through the fanciful. This felt akin to many traditional fairy tales I have read, in that respect, and this made for a nostalgic return to my childhood so surely did it envelop the feelings of these classic pieces.

    I found the open-ended nature of these pieces to be, on times, a little disconcerting. This is purely a personal preference, but I tend to adore full-length novels that feature such abstract endings but yearn for more concrete foundations in my short fiction. Here, this approach worked, however, and once I got used to this style of narrative permeating the entire body of work could I begin to appreciate how I, the reader, became drawn into the telling of these tales. It is often left up to individual interpretation on how these will be received and understood, which a reading of any collection of reviews will tell you. Each reader will find their own story within these stories, and that is what makes this a truly wonderful collection as there really is something for everyone, here.

    A breakdown of my ratings for each individual story:

    Animals - 4/5 stars

    Jacob - 4/5 stars

    Plum Pie. Zombie Green. Yellow Bee. Purple Monster - 4/5 stars

    In the Dark - 3/5 stars

    Margaret and Mary and the End of the World - 3.5/5 stars

    Little Deaths 3/5 stars

    The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night - 4/5 stars

    Pebbles - 3.5/5 stars

    Aunt Libby's Coffin Hotel - 3/5 stars

    Sea Devils - 3.5/5 stars

    Human Satellites - 3/5 stars

    Bright White Hearts - 5/5 stars

  • Figgy

    Throwing punches from the first line!

    Set in a world where using animal hearts for transplant is commonplace, and told by a man who is maybe not so unusual in this world of easily replaced hearts, but also takes a look at rape-culture and a woman's right (or lack thereof) to choose what she does with her own body.

    After "Animals" this one lacks a lot of oomph, and it's a bit of a mystery as to whether it even fits the rest of this collection (too early to tell). It does

    Throwing punches from the first line!

    Set in a world where using animal hearts for transplant is commonplace, and told by a man who is maybe not so unusual in this world of easily replaced hearts, but also takes a look at rape-culture and a woman's right (or lack thereof) to choose what she does with her own body.

    After "Animals" this one lacks a lot of oomph, and it's a bit of a mystery as to whether it even fits the rest of this collection (too early to tell). It does examine some pretty stressful life events from the point of a boy too young to really understand what they mean, exploring all the questions that come up as a result and the sweet or humorous ways this young boy's mind might misinterpret the event. There's a certain level of resilience here as a result of not quite understanding what's going on.

    Oooh, I actually really liked this one, though I'm still not entirely sure what was going on... Took a little while to get into, and the HTML thing seemed a bit out of left field, but had a nice wrap up in the story. A cross between fairytales, summer camp, coming of age, and vibes from a whole lot of sci-fi/spec fic worlds I've visited.

    A whole bunch of kids who are part human part plant attend camp every year, which is fun for the first few weeks, but not so much at the end, where they are worked on by tree-surgeons, and pruned, and experimented on.

    A mute stranger walks into a woman's kitchen at night while she's washing up. There's a lot of speculation in this one for a fairly simple setting, and it looks at the ways in which people who don't speak the same language can communicate, whether that's people from another country or people from another planet, perhaps?

    I would have liked to know a little more about the setting, but the unknowns are part of this story, as told to us by the woman in the kitchen.

    Such a lot to unpackage here - about eating disorders, teen pregnancy, and pedophilia, interspersed with fairytales, other stories, and our narrator's speculation. One of the fairytales actually made me laugh out loud at one point. Rather than coming out and saying any of the squeamish things, Campbell paints

    the issues for the reader to speculate and uncover, and though the ending left some questions I would have liked answered, they made sense within the setting of the story.

    I really loved the picture this painted of a world where little ghosts come from people, escaping from their lungs and certain scientists who are trying to "cure" people of the ghosts, which would theoretically make them immortal.

    At only 5 pages this was far too short to satisfy properly, and I would like to read a novel set in this world, please!

    Told entirely in dialogue, as though in a script, a couple theorise about potential beginnings. Sweet and heartfelt, but also with a dose of sadness. Again, not the kind of sadness said outright, and the mechanisms of the story are unknown to the reader and could mean one of a few things, but it's all there if you read between the lines. I love the relationship between these two, and the chat they have is reminiscent in certain ways of late-night discussions I've been part of, myself, so it was easy to fall for these two.

    Wanted to love this one about a lesbian romance set against the backdrop of wars and human rights battles, but it was too disjointed and I just couldn't get into the flow of it. Also mot sure if the MC at the start of the story knew the love interest or if she just imagined her, and then somehow ended up with this dreamed/imagined redhead.

    This is probably the most easy to predict story in the collection, but the great writing and the interesting premise were also very strong here.

    A girl and her aunt run a coffin hotel, selling the idea that people can spend a night in one of their coffins and come closer to making contact with loved ones who have passed. They do this by way of finding out information and using it to convince their guests, but not all is as it seems.

    I didn't love this story, per se, and the way it was so disjointed made it really hard to get lost in it... but there were some really intriguing things for the reader to find between the lines here. Things that were never said outright but which we know to be true.

    The story itself is about two friends who drift apart when one begins chasing stardom, but this isn't really about the story so much as the messages between the lines.

    As a sci-fi nut I love the idea of a planet being discovered which is "composed of soundbites from across the universe", and the resulting desire for understanding of said planet and the inevitable conflict between the people searching for answers and those who think the planet is evil and the cause of illness.

    Short and snappy, and not so much a story as a musing on the aforementioned events... I'd like to read a bit more about this in longer form.

    I'm really torn with this one... It does offer some fantastic quotes and looks at the way deformity is and has been viewed in our society, and explores a certain obsession with the sea. There were so many things about this one that were worthwhile, but then it was also just a grouping of disjointed thoughts. It was hard to really get a proper sense of the story as there wasn't really much story to speak of, but then you would be hard pressed to call it character driven, too. So what was it? I'm not quite sure... Stream of consciousness?

  • Eric Anderson

    I’ve been a fan of watching Jen Campbell’s histories of fairy tales on her

    for some time. She gives fascinating descriptions of the dark content and themes of these stories which have been passed down through generations and illuminates how the original tale is often far different from a Disney interpretation. So I was incredibly eager to read this series of original modern-day fairy tales she’s written in her first collection of short fiction “The Beginning of the World in the M

    I’ve been a fan of watching Jen Campbell’s histories of fairy tales on her

    for some time. She gives fascinating descriptions of the dark content and themes of these stories which have been passed down through generations and illuminates how the original tale is often far different from a Disney interpretation. So I was incredibly eager to read this series of original modern-day fairy tales she’s written in her first collection of short fiction “The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night”. These are stories about fantastical situations such as purchasing hearts online, capturing ghosts to sell on the black market, a hotel where the guests sleep in coffins and a far away planet that acts as a time capsule. These distorted versions of the world often inventively shed new light on our emotional reality by ruminating on conditions such as love, jealousy, greed and the origin of existence. It makes this book such a richly rewarding and pleasurable reading experience.

    Read my full

  • Kirsty

    This was a strange book. It's full of modern day fairy tales. It's magical, its whimsical, there's a lovely way with the words but some of it is very disturbing. The first story Animals about buying animal hearts from the internet, heart transplants and even eating them just weirded me out. 

    I've never been disturbed in such a beautiful way before! 

    I've not read any of the authors other work before so I suppose I wasn't quite expecting what I got. I do think I'll probably read it again so I can f

    This was a strange book. It's full of modern day fairy tales. It's magical, its whimsical, there's a lovely way with the words but some of it is very disturbing. The first story Animals about buying animal hearts from the internet, heart transplants and even eating them just weirded me out. 

    I've never been disturbed in such a beautiful way before! 

    I've not read any of the authors other work before so I suppose I wasn't quite expecting what I got. I do think I'll probably read it again so I can full appreciate the style. Overall I did like it but I think I need to absorb the stories a bit more

    Free arc from netgalley

  • Karen

    Absolutely loved this beautifully written collection of twelve short stories by Jen Campbell.

    Some made me giggle and some brought a tear to my eye

    My favourite stories being 'Aunt Libby's Coffin Hotel' and 'Little Deaths'.

    Jen's love for the fairy tale beams from the pages throughout and the writing is beautiful.

    I love watching her videos on YouTube and recommend 'Fairy Tales with Jen' series in which she talks about the history of fairy tales and where they was originated.

  • Sara

    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

    The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is a collection of short stories based around the concept of fairy tales and magical realism in the contemporary world. We have people who use animal hearts to gain love and affection, a mermaid living in a local aquarium and and a sister with two souls.

    It's obvious that the author has a strong fondness for fairy tales that shines through in each of the tales. The stories are a

    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

    The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is a collection of short stories based around the concept of fairy tales and magical realism in the contemporary world. We have people who use animal hearts to gain love and affection, a mermaid living in a local aquarium and and a sister with two souls.

    It's obvious that the author has a strong fondness for fairy tales that shines through in each of the tales. The stories are all relatively short and succinct (like a classic fairy tale), and are often left open ended - which at times made them feel unfinished or disjointed as they stop rather abruptly. And most of the stories are really weird. Some in a good way (I loved Bright White Hearts and Aunt Libby's Coffin Hotel) and some I felt didn't really work (Animal Hearts in particular I found very confusing with little world building to support what was going on).

    As with most short story collections I've read, this was hit and miss. But all the stories were definitely a little bit different.

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