"Swann has ... the ability to see and sense things about human beings from original angles, make unexpected and illuminating comparisons and connections and to communicate the ways in which a humble domestic object or a passing gesture can become infused with significance."
Kerryn Goldsworthy, The Sydney Morning Herald, Pick of the Week
"Leah Swann is a fine stylist. Beneath the lucid surface of her stories lies a powerful emotional undertow. The novella is masterly."
"Bearings -- as lustful, violent and comic as it is by turns, is a work of quiet reverence and respect for people, their dreams and their failings...so sincere, so lived and so wonderfully wrought it possesses the power to heal."
"There's palpable emotional honesty here... the novella, about a failed marriage teetering towards redemption, is especially memorable."
The Canberra Times
"... the insight we are given into her uncertain, scared and essentially flawed characters that is most compelling."
Australian Book Review
"Leah Swann’s involving tales are perfect little parcels of humanity: there is family, both new and old, there is life and death, pain and love, happiness – and such wrenching heartbreak I had to put the book down for a moment to hook myself back to reality.
Behind another stylish Dean Gorissen cover for the series (and of course you should not judge books by their covers, but I shamelessly do) there are seven short stories and the novella ‘Silver Hands’, sitting neatly in the middle. In the novella, Rachel is struck by the loss of both her husband and the movement in her arms, which, as a sculptor and a mother, she sees as her entire world. Within in her past lies the origin of both problems, and it needs to be confronted to help her; in the meantime you feel Rachel as close to you as a friend.
The collection is sometimes dark, but remains full of hope, and the saddest stories are still touched with quirks: a dash of humour, the addition of an unexpected animal, or something as beautifully simple and evocative as the texture and taste of marmalade. Australia itself is as much a character as anyone else – all trees and dirt, drought and creeks, fairy penguins and the Belgrave/Lilydale train line. Leah Swann makes every tale as realistic as a memory: I would re-read ‘The Singles Club’ for its thrill of warm weather and new love, or ‘Slow to Learn’ for a stretch into the past. One little girl is called ‘clear as a diamond’ and, ultimately, Swann’s writing is exactly that."
Fiona Hardy, Readings Monthly
"Swann's stories are .... hermetic objects: sleek excisions of Australian suburban, regional and rural life, attempts at creating worlds unto themselves. She takes up the opportunity to open for imaginative scrutiny a single idea for a story, a single idea that is very often creditably singular.
Perhaps the best piece is also one of the shortest, The Easter Hare. Nothing is more self-sufficient, or poetic, in a short story than the single-word paragraph, and this story has three of them: "Friday", "Saturday", "Sunday".
Lives collide, life and death collide, within the oubliettes of these three paragraphs and days, and the only way out of present grief is through the trapdoor of the traditional Easter tale. This is classic short-story writing, with uncomplicated poetic presence:
For two dusks, the body hangs from a rope coiled over a branch. Under moonlight, like a stone, the wind ruffling the leaves around it, the grasses below it. Dew gathers and dissipates over the bluish skin. Flies settle undisturbed on the lips and eyelids and ears. Bellbirds make their one-note, haunting chimes.
.... Swann's simpler stories, perhaps paradoxically, have lived on more richly, for me, beyond the final page."
Patrick West, The Weekend Australian
"The first story in the collection, ‘Street Sweeper’ plays with the second person voice – a voice that is hard to embody effectively without grating didactically on the reader. The narrator is revealed, carefully, on page two of the story to be a young man who observes his faded hippy mother and her friends, and is on the cusp of adulthood. His observations of her and the events that follow gently augment all the characters to reveal mannerisms and foibles. This story truly glows.
‘The Easter Hare’ begins with an almost medieval description of a corpse hanging from a tree – juxtaposed immediately with a contemporary family walking through the bush. A jogger, a soon to be father, finds the corpse first and is able to warn the family before they reach the body, the body which has been seared to the jogger’s retina. This is a story about life and death – about the transitory. It captures a tiny moment that has vast consequences.
‘Silver Hands’ is, by far, the longest story in the collection. It is subtitled ‘A Novella’. Told in the first person, it is the story of a potter whose hands begin to ache. The character is also a mother who may or may not be losing her husband. There is so much to this story, nothing is simple, there are no smooth resolutions. For the reader, the confusion of human relationships, the completely unapparent ways that we interact, is told in a hearty manner and the mildness of the ‘resolution’ of the story does not impede the powerful telling of the story of human interactions.
The last story in the collection, ‘The Ringwood Madonna’ is a beautiful contrast, from the title onwards. The slightly flat premise of a disillusioned young middle-class mother who turns to art for salvation and respite from familial drudgery is given a twist when she begins to paint glowing Madonna iconography on a Ringwood underpass. She meets a young, lost graffiti tagger, who becomes the protector of the Madonna. The story tells of the transitory nature of art, the ability of art to transform not only the personal but the environment in which it is placed. It also tells a more traditional story of the awkward friendship between a young middle-class mother and this lost teenage boy.
Swann doesn’t make the stories easy or straightforward. They are far from clichéd. It is through nuance that characters are revealed. It is, strangely, the stories that are most traditionally structured (background, climax, resolution) that are the weakest – but even at its weakest points this book remains strong. Why is it that the resolution makes the story seem weaker? It may be because Swann is adept at reflecting back the confusing human condition – that her writing helps us to understand the vagaries of our existence.
Whether or not Swann set out to examine the strangeness of our time on earth, or whether she merely utilised these mundane and everyday interactions is not important. They have coalesced to create prisms for the reader to view the world in new ways. These are stories that resonate on a number of levels ranging from a good yarn to a harsh examination of human nature. They sing, sometimes discordantly and sometimes angelically, but always clearly. They are stories that resonate and pose as many questions as they answer."
Rachel Edwards, Literary Minded, crikey.com