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East of Here, Close to Water

Josephine Rowe

" You’d look out towards the wash of the city lights and think of how you used to dream of nights like this, of men like him, and you’d wonder what was missing, what had fallen away between the now and the then."

Reviewed by Annie Clarkson

East of Here, Close to Water is an unusually small book with perfect cream cover and eleven delightfully short stories, with titles like Her Grandmother’s HarpsichordOutdoor Furniture Green and Before the Power Went Out

It is a self-published book, a notion I am usually against, not in principle, but because most self-published books I have read have been poorly edited, inconsistent in quality and perhaps not ready for publication. East of Here, Close to Water is not one of those books. Every word feels perfectly chosen, each story is beautifully written, I might even say exquisite, and I feel confident there will be a publisher eager to publish her work within the next year. 

There is an intimacy to these stories that draws the reader in, makes us witness or party to the characters’ most difficult or revealing moments. Secrets are shared; inner thoughts, loves/ hates, anxieties and vulnerabilities. Characters are introduced with such precise brevity, we might instantly know them: 

"He had an ex-wife, callused fingers, a dog that he loved, gentle Australian rock on the car stereo." 

"She laughs with her teeth clamped shut, tongue on the roof of her mouth. It comes out like a hum, like a fancy that!"

Josephine Rowe has a poet’s eye. She focuses on small actions such as polishing a wardrobe, a man drowning an injured bird, a woman receiving a series of empty envelopes through the mail. These small moments become resonant with meaning, history, and emotion. We learn everything we need to know about these characters through their connections with these objects. We are left with an ache, because these beautiful, sad stories are perhaps critical moments in these characters lives. They could be our lives. 

Some images stay, long after reading them: 

"And somewhere out amongst it all she was still running, her peroxide-yellow hair flagging out behind her snarled with dirty little secrets, the memories of men’s fingers." 

There is enough said that we know what we are being shown, but there is space for our imagination, and we are left with questions that linger. 

Perhaps East of Here, Close to Water might be too short for some people, the stories too fleeting. It is certainly a shorter collection than most. But, Josephine Rowe has distilled so much into so few pages. She has an ability to capture the core emotional truth in a given moment in such a simple poetic way.

Read a story by Josephine Rowe on Furious Horses.com.

Annie Clarkson is a poet and short story writer living in Manchester, UK. Her first chapbook of short prose Winter Hands was published by Shadow Train Books in 2007.
Annie's other Short Reviews: Anthony De Sa "Barnacle Love"

Laura Chester "Rancho Weirdo"

Daniel Grandbois "Unlucky Lucky Days"


PublisherCherry Fox Press

Publication Date: 2007

Paperback/Hardback? Paperback

First collection?Yes

Author bio: Josephine Rowe lives in Melbourne, where she regularly performs both spoken word and music. Her poetry and short-fiction have been widely published in Australia and read on national radio.

Read an interview with Josephine Rowe

Buy this book (used or new) from:

Author's recommended bookseller: Readings.com.au


And...don't forget your local booksellers and independent book shops! Visit  IndieBound.org to find an independent bookstore near you in the US

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