Wednesday 13 August 2008

Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese

downtoasunlesssea.jpg Published by Wheatmark

A young man stands before a mirror, another is preparing to open a new business with a friend, a bear visits a local town, a young boy keeps an old woman company for a time, a woman visits a graveyard, and a child is taught to swim. These are everyday events that happen all over the world on a daily basis and hardly seem worth a second glance but when mingled with the imagination of Mathias B. Freese these same events become short stories containing something dark, morbid and at times just plain weird.

I found this collection of short stories to be an addictive read thanks to the author’s gift for piquing the reader’s curiosity and also because a few of the stories have a sprinkling of information that leads the reader to think and question. Sometimes more info will be given but most often not which could be frustrating to some – it was to me at first and then once I got used to the style it didn’t bother me so much (though I am still giving a lot of thought to the pit bull!)

I liked most of the stories. I have to admit that the story, which shares the title of the book ‘Down to a Sunless Sea’, was my least favourite – and sadly, if I had not been reviewing this title, I might have been hesitant to continue reading. Half way through the second story I was really glad I had though because the book really was a great read. Each character is well written and I loved that this book explores the more negative emotions and experiences in life. Some of the circumstances can feel very uncomfortable but again, I liked that. I tend to believe that without experiencing the discomfort and negativity, we can’t always appreciate the wonderful things in life.

I had four favourites in this collection.

The Chatham Bear - in which a bear ventures into town and the reader is treated to the various reactions of the inhabitants. This story had me constantly thinking – and even now I am still mulling it over.

Herbie – in which a young boy and his friend plan on opening a shoe-shining business, His father’s reaction begins a cycle in which the two feed from each other’s negative energies. For this story I loved the inclusion of raw, animalistic behaviour though the emotion that was in mind when I finished reading it was sheer hopelessness.

Unanswerable – in which a moment shared by Father and Son totally shatters a life. I felt a great deal of anger, resentment, and hatred. It’s probably one of the most powerful stories in the book and like many of the stories in this collection it touches on the subject of WWII and the holocaust.

My most favourite, Little Errands – in which an errand as simple as mailing a letter becomes a task filled with great stress. It really stuck a chord in me but then, like the character in this tale I am one of those people who finds it necessary to check my front door many times even after I know I just locked it. I could empathise with the character completely.

Try it, read it and if you do, please let me know which are your favourites!


Anonymous said...

Dear Charlene:
As the author I appreciate your comments. And I must say that "Mortise and Tenon" is one of my personal favorites. The author is always the last to know the worth of his efforts. The book represents a lifetime of private toil, unrecognized and unknown -- and I really learned a great deal from that isolation. All the stories reveal an inner-directedness either on the part of the characters or the author. I made a pact with myself during my winter od discontent to publish a book only if most if not all the stories had been published. Well, the tortoise won!

Charlene Martel said...

I am mighty glad the tortoise won! Yes, I noticed the front of the book contained information regarding previous publication of some pieces. As for Mortise and Tenon, I loved that one too but I couldn't honestly think of a way to write about it that would do it justice (I had that problem with many of the stories. hehe).

I can't wait to read more of your work.

Anna said...

I'm always looking for a good short story collection. Thanks for the recommendation! I'm definitely going to check this one out.

--Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

Charlene Martel said...

Great Anna, I know I have a few short story collections reviewed here and lots more upcoming also. I didn't actually get into reading story collections until a couple of years ago but now I adore them.

Another of my favs is Russell Wangersky's The Hour of Bad Decisions. You can check my review at

In the coming month or two I will be reviewing at least 4 story collections. Old Stories, Six Ways to Sunday, Withstanding the Lie, and Drying the Bones.

Anonymous said...

Hi Charlene - I'd recently read Down to a Sunless Sea too!

Just like you, I also didn't find the title story that appealing...but thankfully, I stayed on to the next few pages and discovered the powerful writer Mathias B. Freese is.

Looking forward to discussions with book lovers like you :)

Charlene Martel said...

Dear Kittycat,

I loved reading your review also. Thanks for sharing the URL! These really were great stories and I know I will visit this book many times over the years ahead.

I am so thrilled to see others posting their opinions on books too. Who knows, maybe we can pull other readers out of the Literary Word shadows eh? *grins*