Review: Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan

September 20, 2013 4 stars, Book Review 19 ★★★★

Pabkins’ One Liner: Almost everyone loves cake, but this is a completely different kind of slice!


   Yellowcake brings together ten short stories from the extraordinarily talented Margo Lanagan–each of them fiercely original and quietly heartbreaking.

The stories range from fantasy and fairy tale to horror and stark reality, and yet what pervades is the sense of humanity.  The people of Lanagan’s worlds face trials, temptations, and degradations. They swoon and suffer and even kill for love. In a dangerous world, they seek the solace and strength that comes from family and belonging.

These are stories to be savored slowly and pondered deeply because they cut to the very heart of who we are.


Yellowcake, almost everyone I know loves cake, am I right? Well with this particular anthology I would have to say it will really only appeal to a certain slice of people. Those that don’t mind their fiction being disjointed, vague, obscure and dare I say…odd. While I enjoyed it, I honestly don’t know of anyone that I would recommend it to. It was just that strange. Literally it felt like it was all over the field. One moment it would be something deep I could understand and be in awe of, then next perhaps a love story, only the next story to be confusion and “WTF?” Ultimately, I would have to tag Yellowcake as “hard to place” and I definitely think readers will either fall heavily on the love or hate side of this short story collection. If it sounds appealing to you, I would say give it a whirl.

The Point of Roses
This story was amazing. I loved absolutely everything about it!. Billy sets out one night with a group of boys to experiment with psychic powers. Their experiments have have quite the interesting effects on them all as well as Billy’s grandparents. This was an unexpectedly heartbreaking and warning in equal measure. Also the kids were hilarious!

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“Can’t go? What’s he doing, working up a good crap? Ow.” – pg 9

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“It’ll never fade,” Alex whispered. “I’ll never forget.” “You will, too, “said Shai. “Just like you forget a bad dream.” “I don’t forget those, either,” said Alex, weeping. “I lie there going over and over it in my head, and trying not to go back to sleep and have it again. And sometimes I do go to sleep, and I do have it again–” – pg 21

The Golden Shroud
A retelling of Rapunzel but more along the lines of the damsel in distress instead of the original version. I liked it well enough with so much hair how could it not take on a life of it’s own? The writing style wasn’t my favorite. I believe the author was going for an old world fell which was definitely captured, but I wasn’t personally fond of.

A Fine Magic
I have but one thing to say, Never scorn a sorcerer’s affections! Two eligible and lovely young girls sought after by all the men in town catch the attention of a local fascination (sorcerer). Determined, a bit daft, but ever vengeful is a man when after a woman’s affections! I love the darkly humorous ending.

An Honest Day’s Work
This one was just strange. I couldn’t get a comfortable handle on the dialect style, and when that happens it always hampers my enjoyment a bit. It was an interesting story to be sure. This would be a crazy first day on the job indeed. What was that thing anyhow? I’m still not quite sure!

Into the Clouds on High
Someone, something, somewhos have been trying to call Marcus’ mother away. As a mother I just couldn’t understand how another mother would be so nonchalant about the possibility of leaving her children. This was sad, but not sad. Though I didn’t know what to feel by the end, it was a good short.

Nigh of the Firstlings
All I could think of while reading this was is this some sort of biblical tale? Was that the affliction done to the first born son of each family? And the parting of the sea? This one just wasn’t for me.

Catastrophic Disruption of the Head
Twisted and dark, you should expect that with an opening line like “Who believes in his own death?” This was a tale of a soldier, who changes when he acquires power of an unexpected sort. This story definitely is not for everyone and I was very surprised at the level of violence…or to put it more bluntly violation.

A little of what you can expect:

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“I steeled myself before every fight, and shat myself.” – pg 129

One of my favorites in this collection. Who could have suspected the Ferryman who shuttles souls across the river Styx is a mortal? So sad and yet not, I almost think that sums up all of Lanagan’s stories. This one though was definitely well done and easy to follow.

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“Some say dad is ugly. I say his kind of work would turn anyone ugly, all the gloom and doom of it. And anyway, I don’t care–my dad is my dad. He can be ugly as a sackful of bumholes and still I’ll love him.” – pg 168

Living Curiosities
Everyone enjoys the circus..or do they? There’s a tragedy that takes place this day, and plenty of curiosities as the title promises. I’ve come to the conclusion that  find this author’s writing style very hard to get pulled in by.

Eyelids of the Dawn
Itchy! Do you ever see a bug and then you just can’t help feeling creepy cranky and itchy all over until you take a shower? That’s how the opening scenes of this made me feel. Afterward, it was a pretty fascinating concept. An entire Mall, that’s right the shopping kind, just picks up and walks off. Fancy that?


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• A advanced reader edition of this was provided by the publisher for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. Please note that this post also contains affiliate links. To view our full Blog Policy, click here.

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Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
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19 Responses to “Review: Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan”

  1. Mogsy

    Oooh, this one had caught my eye at Random Buzzers, but I’m a little relieved I didn’t get it now. Looks actually kind of interesting, but anthologies/short stories type books aren’t generally my thing, and I hadn’t known that it was like a collection before this.
    Mogsy recently posted…Book Review: Seven Forges by James A. MooreMy Profile

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      Yes, I didn’t realize it was a short story book either until after I picked it up and read the back closer. I really enjoy short story collections. It gives you a great taste for the author and helps me find new authors I want to check out.

  2. JoshA

    I’m no usually very interested in short story collections, but this one sounds interesting…

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      I really enjoy short story collections – I do prefer rating the stories within individually because they deserve their own mention and mini review! I’m glad you found it helpful!

  3. simonet

    I like these type of books for in between reads when I cant figure out what series I want to start next.

  4. Tabitha the Pabkins

    I agree! I always have at least one short story collection being read while I read longer length novels. It gives you something to read say late at night when you don’t want to get sucked back into the book you’re reading and just want something that will tide you over.

  5. Jaime Lester

    So, would I or wouldn’t I? Hmmmm. I usually don’t do the short story thing. I am into them, then they are over and I feel all bummed out and let down. So, I usually stay away. Some of these sound interesting though. And I am a weird one, so maybe it would click with me. I just don’t know. By the way, have you read the Brides of Rollrock Island by this author?

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      I wouldn’t recommend this one to you personally. Maybe just read a few select stories but ultimately this one wasn’t really for me. No I haven’t but it looks good and I want to read it. Have you?

      • Jaime Lester

        I have not read it, but would like to. I think I will stay away from Yellowcake. The book, at least. Not the actual yellow cake. Who says no to cake?

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      I prefer the longer format as well – but there are so many amazing short stories out there. Plus it is such an excellent way to find new authors to love and gobble up!

  6. amel armeliana

    I’m not a big fan of short stories, but I would love to read it if the story really intriguing me. Yellow Cake sounds a good one, I’ll put it on my TBR list.

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      Yellowcake is definitely a strange mixed bag. Some of the stories I really loved – others I found just sooo out there. I’d be curious to hear what you end up thinking.

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      It’s a mixed bag. Sometimes I really like one author short story collections but more often I prefer the ones that are multiple authors.

      Except Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia A. McKillip that was the most amazing anthology ever – if you ever want to give one a try THAT is the one to pick up!

  7. Bookworm1858

    I’m one of the ones who didn’t really like this collection-they were just too weird for me. Though I liked one or two, for the most part, they weren’t to my taste.
    Bookworm1858 recently posted…ARC Review: PirouetteMy Profile

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      It was very weird indeed! I think this one will have an interesting possibly hard time finding the right readers. How would you even classify these types of books/stories you know?