Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019
Longlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize 2019
Longlisted for the People’s Book Prize
On the publisher’s website: http://www.fairlightbooks.co.uk/bottled-goods/
On Amazon: Bottled Goods
When Alina’s brother-in-law defects to the West, she and her husband become persons of interest to the secret services, causing both of their careers to come grinding to a halt.
As the strain takes its toll on their marriage, Alina turns to her aunt for help – the wife of a communist leader and a secret practitioner of the old folk ways.
Set in 1970s communist Romania, this novella-in-flash draws upon magic realism to weave a tale of everyday troubles.
Publication Date: 11 July 2018
Praise for Bottled Goods:
Enjoyable to read
— Dolly Alderton, The High Low
An assured debut which is part-absurdist, part-thriller, part-social realism. If you’re looking for intrigue, psychological depth and the darkly comic in a book that can be read in one hour, this is for you.
— Republic of Consciousness Prize 2019 judges
This stunning historical novella […] is both tense and atmospheric
I read Bottled Goods with my heart in my mouth. A seductive blend of beauty and terror, grim realism and triumphant magic, it is a story to savour, to smile at, to rage against and to weep over. I loved this book, and Alina’s battles with belief, folklore, love and the sour lack of it will stay with me for a very long time.
— Zoe Gilbert, author of Folk
Sophie van Llewyn writes masterful and inventively structured in titled flash fiction ‘chapters’ which stand alone, yet work together to create a compelling drama. I loved the magical realism strand in the novella, which adds further layers to life in Romania and Alina’s relationship with her mother. This is an impressive debut in the tradition of Eastern European Absurdist fiction.’
— Jude Higgins, writing events organiser, tutor and author of The Chemist’s House
Sophie van Llewyn’s stunning debut novella shows us there is no dystopian fiction as frightening as that which draws on history. Lyrical, magical, and yet thoroughly grounded in the reality of communist Romania, the fifty-one short pieces in Bottled Goods contribute to a rich and colorful tapestry. Van Llewyn weaves in layer upon layer, playing with words and forms to deliver the powerful story of one woman’s quest for political and personal freedom.
— Christina Dalcher, author of VOX
Sophie van Llewyn weaves a delicate thread of magic realism throughout this spellbinding story of the brutalities underpinning daily life in Communist Romania. The author draws an intricate picture of The Cold War’s shortages and propaganda, with captivating details of Romanian food and folklore, friendship and family life.
Bottled Goods is a hypnotising read because of the supreme quality of the writing, the vivid characterisation and a meticulous attention to detail. The structure suits it perfectly because while each piece is crafted to carry its own weight, the narrative flows with ease throughout the entire novella.
— Joanna Campbell, author of When Planets Slip Their Tracks
In Bottled Goods, Sophie van Llewyn deftly recreates the anxious mood of Communist Romania in a series of 51 brief narratives. A tour de force, a harrowing and ultimately triumphant story, a must-read by a masterful writer.
— Christopher Allen, author of Other Household Toxins
A look behind the Iron Curtain, in a collection deftly created by small scenes from pre-1989 Romania. Each story reveals something of the world Alina lives in – at times tender, at times maddening, at times downright frightening. The uncertainties of life and love, and the insatiable quest for freedom – bottled neatly in a set of stories that captivate and enchant.
— Michelle Elvy, editor of Flash Frontier, coordinator of Flash Fiction Day New Zealand
Bottled Goods is a masterful blend of the political and the personal, the magical and the mundane, the historical and the hyperbolic. From the very first page, Sophie van Llewyn casts her readers into the shoes of her protagonist, presenting Alina’s communist Romania of the 1970s through an exquisitely unsettling tapestry of shifting voices, fragmentary perspectives, and interleaving narratives. Each chapter stands alone as a mini masterclass in flash fiction, yet as the novella spirals towards its gripping conclusion, these individual pieces build and layer and twist into something so much more than the sum of its parts.
I started reading Bottled Goods on the bus and was so engrossed, I didn’t realise I’d missed my stop until nearly the end of the line. When I finally looked up, I found myself miles from where I began, both literally and figuratively. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
— Ingrid Jendrzejewski, Editor in Chief, FlashBack Fiction
Sophie Van Llewyn’s novella Bottled Goods is a dizzying, daring window on life in Ceausescu’s Romania. As a counterbalance to the danger that surrounds main character Alina, magical elements of folk ways and the impossible show a family – and country – that won’t be defined by its dictator. Each flash fiction stands firmly on its own feet with beautiful writing and an authentic voice. The total is so much greater than the sum of its parts however, reaching rich depths of what it means to survive: to love, lose, and try to move on.
— Stephanie Hutton, author of Three Sisters of Stone
This beautifully written novella is a lucid and powerfully affecting story set amid the paranoia and treachery of communist Romania. Composed of 51 flash fictions which explore the form in a number of imaginative ways, emotional realism mingles with the magical to tell the story of a woman trying to make a life in the face of poverty, political oppression and dysfunctional family dynamics.
— Helen Rye, Winner of the Bath Flash Fiction Award
A novella-in-flash is a novella that consists of independent flash fictions (that it, self-contained stories ranging from 5 to 1,000 words), that function as ‘chapters.’ They are linked, forming a longer story. Think of them as brushstrokes, each of them a touch of colour in themselves — but all in all forming a ‘bigger picture’.
If you wish to read some of these flash fictions, and have a taste of my novella, you can find them here: publications
If you wish to read more about this fascinating form, here is an interview with the publishers of My Very End of the Universe, an anthology of five novellas-in-flash . And here is an interview with Meg Pokrass, author and judge of the Bath Novella-in-Flash Award in 2017 and 2018.