The author has broken her stories into five categories: tall tales; circular tales; fairy tales; old wives' tales and beastly tales. The separation is nice because if you find one category isn't to your liking, the stories change form in the next category.
Probably the hardest thing about reviewing collections is that there are some stories that really appeal to me - 'Access' in the fairy tales department - and others that are really not my cup of tea - 'Iron Light' in the tall tales department. In this collection, I found the balance about 60/40 in favour of the stories I liked.
All of the stories are very well written and remain true to the theme, which I appreciated. It was easier to move from story to story because of that thread. Many of the stories made me think and some just entertained. I didn't find that I seriously hated any of the stories although I felt a little let down by a few. I would say that is the way many collections hit me. I'm sure someone else could read Xu Xi's stories and enjoy some that I didn't while disliking some that I enjoyed.
One of the things I loved about this short story collection is that each story introduced me to new and varied characters in a variety of situations. There were no two stories the same. If I'm going to read a collection like this, I don't want to be re-reading the same basic story over and over. This is definitely another good purse book.
A Taste from the title story, 'Access' page 105"
"Freedom in daylight," she responded. They were married two years later, once she agreed not to have children, about which Stan was adamant because his own childhood had been abused. Elna hadn't cared, not really, although lately she thought Stan unduly cautious, because he seemed wholly unlikely to be an abusive father but then, as Mother said with an indifferent shrug when first told, que sera, who knows for sure? Stan said Hélene wouldn't want to be a grandmother because that would force her to become an adult.