by Katie Moran
If Kassandra Flamouri’s debut collection of short stories is anything to go by, then magic really does exist among the mundane. The stories in her recently published collection The Fruit of our Thorns are all deftly crafted to transport believers and non-believers alike into wildly magical worlds running parallel to our own. This collection weaves together Greek, British, and Irish folklore and history, while delivering stories of triumph and heartbreak that sweep in and settle comfortably into the corners of your own imagination. Readers will be left wondering over these multifaceted, bold characters and stories long after they’ve finished reading the collection.
Flamouri’s use of a rose in the title and cover art of the collection alludes to her choice to highlight women throughout this collection. The rose is beautiful, but resilient and so are the women in Flamouri’s collection. Her flawlessly crafted stories speak to the strength of all women from all walks of life. She is able to craft a platform that showcases inclusivity with every turn of the page. The Fruit of Our Thorns, in that it borrows from the fairy tale genre and remixes it masterfully, subtly warns of the dangers of heteronormative fairy tales by demonstrating that traditional tropes are not requisite of the genre.
Split into three parts, each story in Flamouri’s collection reinvigorates the folklore, fairy tale, and fantasy genres and the way that they can be presented to an audience including one our readers know well – “The Spider and the Honeybee” which was first published in Fterota Logia in February 2018. Flamouri’s writing feels familiar, like a story your mother told you before bedtime, while also feeling like it’s been set on fire – full of intensity in one moment, playful and tickling in the next. Flamouri’s stories are written without a notion of conformity or restraint, but rather with an eye toward craftsmanship and remixing.
In the short story The Flowers of Kastania, the author reaches an incredible moment of triumph in her craft. The story is centered on a Greek village during Nazi occupation and based on both the author’s grandmother’s experiences during World War 2 and the massacre of Distomo, a town near Delphi. On June 10, 1944, over two hundred men, women, and children lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis in what has been identified as one of the most despicable crimes of WW2. In her story, Flamouri gracefully and with care for the memory of those who suffered, depicts this story while maintaining her command over the tone she establishes throughout this collection. Flamouri waves fantastical elements into this retelling of a dark spot in human history to create a heart wrenching, poignant, and beautifully told story of compassion, hope, and, above all, the strength of women and girls.
The Fruit of Our Thorns is an introduction to a talented and imaginative storyteller, one whose voice needs to be heard by many. Flamouri’s collection is bold, imaginative, and beautifully written while also addressing issues of gender and sexuality, the values of family and community, the toxic consequences of patriarchy, and so much more. She is an absolutely necessary voice in our current world. Flamouri has flawlessly crafted stories that will grip readers as they embark on their journey through the collection, gathering fans just as her words gather momentum. She is an author who creates a transformative experience for her readers through her skillful writing and I, for one, cannot wait to see what else she creates.