Since the establishment of the Nobel Prizes in 1901, only twenty total have been awarded to women (including Marie Curie, twice). Laura Elvery’s new collection, Ordinary Matter, draws upon each of these awards to create short, slice-of-life stories, all rich with lush sensory detail (just like the gorgeous cover!). The collection gives us glimpses into worlds past, present, and yet to come. The amazing team at UQP were kind enough to send me a copy for review.
Let’s be clear, however: the stories in Ordinary Matter aren’t about the women who won the Nobel Prizes, or even necessarily the work they did to win them. I wish that had been clearer from the outset.
Instead, the stories are inspired by them, often only tangentially related to their discoveries. Without the link highlighted by the winner’s name and commendation appearing at the beginning of each story, you’d probably never make the connection. A (slightly) longer biography is provided for each woman in the final pages, and I would highly recommend reading that first, for context.
Some of the stories are a bit forgettable, but others linger, like Something Close To Gold (the story of a baby washing up on a beach, and the mysterious government department charged with handling the discovery), and The Bodies Are Buried (a speculative projection into a future that seems realistic, but sinister).
Even with Elvery’s close attention to detail, each story feels like it stops just short, all of them withholding something from the reader. Overall, Ordinary Matter is a mixed bag, but the premise alone will be enough to draw you in.