Short story collections can often be hit and miss, but Emily Paull’s debut collection, Well-Behaved Women is a feast of storytelling.
Seventeen stories make up Well-Behaved Women with themes around sexuality, relationship, power, mental health, ageing, death, autonomy, jealousy and feminity explored. Each story left me satisfied as a reader, although as always with short stories, you wish there was more (which is, in my opinion, part of the inherent attractiveness of short stories).
To be honest, I found the book hard to put down and spent time in reflection after reading. I enjoyed the feelings of intimacy, vulnerability and uneasiness that came with each of the stories as if they were whispered confidences told in the quiet of night.
My favourite four stories included:
From Under The Ground: Maggie Turner reels with guilt and fear when a girl’s skeleton is discovered in her back garden.
Picnic At Greens Pool: Miranda Nolan’s girlfriend disappears at a popular swimming spot.
Font De Gracia: Grace leaves Perth for Barcelona when her mother discovers she is sleeping with her university professor.
The Things We Rescued: Hilary and her husband offer a homeless woman a lift as they battle to escape their burning town.
Bravo, Emily on a beautifully written collection. I am certain there will be many more stories from Paull in the future.
A woman grapples with survivor’s guilt after a body is found in her garden bed; an ageing beauty queen contemplates her past; a world champion free-diver disappears during routine training…
In moments disquieting or quietly inspiring, this collection considers the complexity of the connections we make—with our family, friends and neighbours, and with those met briefly or never at all.
In her timely debut, Emily Paull voices a chorus of characters that reveal and re-evaluate the expectations of women in Australia today—after all, well-behaved women rarely make history.
‘In Well-behaved Women Emily Paull expertly conveys the small but cumulative acts of emotional repression women endure in order to keep the peace. With great skill and poetry, Paull draws our attention to the psychological toll that such daily concessions take. These fabulous stories will make you smile and cry but most of all, will make you angry—on behalf of all these quietly suffering and “well-behaved” women we all know so well.’ —Melanie Cheng, Victorian Premier’s Literary Award Winner