All That Is Solid, by Rosanne Rabinowitz. Review.

All That Is Solid, by Rosanne Rabinowitz

Eibonvale Press, hb £12/pb £6

Reviewed by Stephen Theaker

A pair of female friends, a Polish designer and a formerly East German bookkeeper, are living in London shortly after the UK voted to leave the European Union. Over the course of twenty-eight pages we see the impact of our collective decision on their lives: harassment from yobs on buses, work drying up, and fears about the future, though we also hear about people who stand up for them, and who help a shopkeeper after an arson attack. It’s all getting to Gosia, and Ilona thinks she might benefit from seeing a therapist. The therapist suggests expressing her feelings through art, with peculiar consequences.

Since this is a review for the British Fantasy Society, it’s worth noting that the fantastical elements in this slipstream story are quite limited, and could be explained away quite easily. Also, note that it has been previously published, in The Scarlet Soul: Stories for Dorian Gray, edited by Mark Valentine (Swan River Press, 2017), so don’t buy it if you are one of the 300 people who already have that limited edition book. And it’s expensive for such a short book, especially in hardback. Those points aside, this is a compassionate and sensitive portrayal of what it has been like for our friends from the continent in recent years.

I was interested most by the nature of Gosia’s art: “It looks alive, as if something vital runs through that wire. Jagged veins of iron, filled with unknown substances. She’s not sure it would be blood.” The story itself might have been more to my taste if it had begun where it ended, and told us what happened next to everyone involved. But that’s not what it is; it’s not about exploring the implications of a weird event, it’s about character and the way character is affected by circumstances, and the conclusion is an expression of all that. What it does it does well; I thought it was good.