Book Review of Here In The World

Shannon Waite
4 min readJul 12, 2023

PREFACE: If this is your first trip to my blog, I write a lot of transgressive fiction and my blog posts are resources for other transgressive writers. I offer book reviews, transgressive topics for inspiration, research on social change, and creative writing techniques. The review below is meant to explore this novel as a transgressive fiction text. Welcome!

While writing stories that are a little gritty, or unhappy, or not considered ‘normal’ about society (broken families, disabilities, sexual experiences, among others), Victoria Lancelott uses such beautiful language and striking images in her collection of short stories Here in the World that I fell in love immediately.

Here in the World by Victoria Lancelott is a collection of thirteen stories. Each story is written from the first person narration of a woman (each story being a different woman) and her experience in the world, typically through the lens of relationships, more specifically her relationship to men/a man.

My favorite story was the first story, “The Guide”, starting off with “Listen. Here is a love story.” And then “We filed to the alter in doll-sized veils and patent leather shoes, heads bowed, our trembling hands folded and held chest-high, and before kneeling to receive the wafer from the priest…” The story then weaves the imagery of church and religion through a woman’s relationship to a blind man who is rough during sex, to which the narrator muses over the pain and guilt she feels in this complicated relationship. The story ends on “What could a blind man pray for, what thing that he would get?” I think this was my favorite story of the bunch (Lancelott started off strong!) for the powerful imagery and lingering questions it left.

Her stories are not primarily focused on plot. Rather, I’d say they use the plot as a tool and opportunity to paint beautiful images with language and to present the reader with philosophical reflections in the questions and comments the narrators make. For example, in her final story, “Here in the World,” the narrator opens the story remembering what it’s like to be a young girl and get all the attention from boys who drive by as often happens when girls walk down the street. This experience of attention will thread through the main plot of the story which is that she is separated from her husband, soon-to-be ex, with whom her son still lives. She’s waiting for the son’s arrival to visit her new home, and she says, “I walk through all this carrying an invisible girl, buried under the flesh of a wife, a mother, an ex-wife by September, my hand out as I cross streets with an invisible boy, little outline just so-high when I saw him last, solid body, feet right on the ground outside that big other house with his father next to him.” What poignant language to reflect on these kinds of emotions and experiences so many women have either had, or can still relate to.

Lancelott is a thoughtful poet and each of her stories uses this skill to create a universal longing, even among different stories. She threads main plots alongside thematic events that work together to create a bigger message in such a short space. The stories were beautiful.

I was drawn to some more than others (I particularly was less interested in her stories near the end which involved a few of the narrators living on the beach). I’m not sure why those types of stories appeal to me less — I can’t say it’s because that life is less familiar to me (because the dark urban settings that I love reading about aren’t exactly my life either), but maybe it’s because the connotation of such a life feels less taboo, despite the plot. Either way, I’d say the collection definitely includes some stories that are stronger and more vivid than others (as with most anthologies).

I would consider this mild transgressive fiction, which I discuss in my previous blog post, because it definitely incorporates transgression (like I said, politically and socially taboo relationships, actions, etc.) and at some points the abuse of the body (which I discuss here as a great technique for transgressive fiction) but because Lancelott’s stories seemingly focus more on the beautiful language than the shock of the plot, it’s hard for me to define this as complete transgressive fiction. It’s mild. It definitely includes elements, and anyone who enjoys pretty language, deep reflections, and subtly taboo relationships, will love this book.

I bought this book by accident — I was at 2nd and Charles, a used bookstore, just browsing books. Couldn’t find anything by authors I knew who I hadn’t read yet, and they had a sale going on for buy 2 get 2 free, so there’s no way I couldn’t find more books when they were free books anyway. So I’m just pulling out book after book across a ton of different shelves and this cover image (along with the title) caught my eye. They say “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” but there was no way this was your average fiction book. I skimmed a story and was sold. I’m grateful I stumbled upon this and was inspired by Lancellot’s craft!

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Shannon Waite

Shannon Waite is an author focused on transgression and social change and, largely, how to combine the two. www.shannonwaiteauthor.com