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Pulse Points

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  239 ratings  ·  48 reviews
The characters in Jennifer Down’s Pulse Points live in small dusty towns, glittering exotic cities and slow droll suburbs; they are mourners, survivors and perpetrators.

In the award-winning ‘Aokigahara’, a young woman travels to the sea of trees in Japan to say goodbye. In ‘Coarsegold’, a woman conducts an illicit affair while her recovering girlfriend works the overnight
Paperback, 240 pages
Published July 31st 2017 by Text Publishing
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4.22  · 
Rating details
 ·  239 ratings  ·  48 reviews

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‘She wanted it,’ and we all went, Yeah, and Fog said, ‘Fat c. . . and we all said the way we remembered it till we were sure it was right.
. . .
Foggo had some rough years. I think it f***ed him up when his dad died. But he came good. Last I heard he was a senior constable working at the Swan Hill station.”

Swan Hill is a Melbourne cop shop (without Foggo, I feel quite certain), but Down shows us how he and his mates obviously escaped any charges by making sure they “remembered right”.

Foggo i
Nov 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jennifer Down’s stories are precise, bracing and observant of small details freighted with emotion. In places, Pulse Points reminded me of Sally Rooney’s work, another preternaturally wise young author. But the stories in Pulse Points are too varied for a direct comparison to hold.

Some of the stories are quiet & thoughtful, while others are more kinetic; a few can suck the air right out of the room. Some deal with confronting themes, like suicide or rape or grief or mental illness, but alway
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I would 4.5 this if I could.
Pulse Points is a collection of short stories by a very talented young Australian author, each giving a unique window into a moment of time in an ordinary life. Except those lives are not ordinary, but reflect the full range of the human condition from love and joy to grief and loss. Each story is brief but complete and somehow each voice is individual and fully realised. Many of the characters are underdogs living on the edges of society but their fears and feelings are universal. My favourite ...more
Anna Spargo-Ryan
If Jennifer Down’s acclaimed 2016 debut novel Our Magic Hour was a love letter to Melbourne, her new collection Pulse Points is a letter to love itself.

Down covers a lot of ground in this collection: the titular opening story, in which a couple fail to save a man and maybe themselves; a sister’s pilgrimage to Aokigahara (Japan’s ‘suicide forest’); a father and a daughter trying to find their way back to one another. Fundamentally, they are studies of human experience more than they are plot-driv
Text Publishing
‘Down writes about love and friendship with an emotionally resonant sparseness...Rather than offering answers to life's big questions, the stories offer glimpses into people tackling them...A collection pulsing with emotion; a writer crackling with potential.’
Kirkus Reviews

‘Jennifer Down is, simply put, one of the most exciting emerging writers in the country. Pulse Points, her recent collection of short stories, is full of a kind of gentle melancholy; that insistent sense of sadness that lurks
Michael Livingston
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful collection of stories, capturing precise moments of sadness, fear and loss. The title story and Aokigahara are probably my favourites, but there are moments in each of them that grab you by the heart.
Elaine Mullane
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
4+ stars

Pulse Points is a stunning collection of short stories, a weaving of powerful portraits about real people, real love and real loss. Stories of life are perfectly encapsulated by Jennifer Down and presented to us in neat little packages that are overflowing with emotion. The prose is concise but revealing, and overflowing with both heart-wrenching emotion and intelligence.

Each story is about an ordinary person - or ordinary people - all grappling with the complexities of human emotion: he
Jaclyn Crupi
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very strong collection of intense, distinct and memorable stories. I love Down's writing and she doesn't disappoint here. I was hoping to read Melbourne in some of the stories after loving her depictions in Our Magic Hour but it wasn't to be. Every story hits its emotional mark and I'm still reeling from some of them.
Tamsien West (Babbling Books)
Powerfully told, vividly written, unforgettable short stories. Each story was so intimate, with such precise details that it felt like Down was pulling memories from my mind that I had forgotten. An incredible talent.

Trigger warnings across the collection: Rape, suicide/suicidal thoughts mentions, addiction.
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, short-stories
Gritty, compelling and real.
Sonia Nair
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Jennifer Down has a knack for capturing the lived experiences of such a large multitude of people, but never does the inclusion of varying ages, sexualities and backgrounds feel tokenistic or forced, such is the three-dimensionality Down accords to each character. Most of the stories are discomfiting in the best way possible and the characters sit with you for a long time afterward. Another stellar book from Down, who is fast cementing her place as one of my favourite Australian writers.
May 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Precise and beautiful prose, with an emotional clarity and intensity that is breathtaking. Each vignette is fully realised, a snapshot into the lives of different people, with a thread of melancholy running throughout. Some of the endings felt a little rushed or abrupt, but I can understand the intention to follow the unfinished nature of real life. All of them left me wanting more. Looking forward to reading more from such a talented writer.
Cheyenne Blue
That was discomforting.

Jennifer Down writes fantastically well, in unflinching hard-biting prose and beautiful sentences. These are mainly the off-kilter, open-ended stories that I love the most, and for that reason alone, I adore this book. There's a lot of grief in the stories, particularly in "Aokigahara", about a sister visiting a suicide forest in Japan where her brother ended his life. Even the more outwardly light-hearted, such as "We Got Used to Here Fast", about a brother and sister se
Amy Polyreader
Jennifer Down has the ability to write from so many different perspectives. Each story in this collection is incredibly compelling in it's own, unique way - I couldn't put it down! Here's one of my favourite moments of the book:

"Wes didn't mind feminists so much. He believed in equal pay, he just didn't know why they needed to be so shrill about everything. Sometimes it seemed to him as if Kirsten saw everything as an attack. He didn't understand all the emancipation. Years ago he'd said to Mira
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
'Pulse Points' is a collection of short stories that are filled with anonymous, difficult feelings, amd characters who don't have the words for them. I can't point out to you a favourite line, but I can tell you about my favourite exchange:

'Tom's a good bloke,' he said.
'He is.'
'Are you in love with him?'
'I think Mum would have loved him more,' Kirsten said. She made a sound like a cough or a sob, but her face was laughing.
'I don't know if Tom and I - if this is all there is. Is this it?'
Wes he
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
This was so good! A collection of short story triumphs, each taking a critical snapshot of someone's life and tipping you headfirst into the midst of it all. I'm only holding back from a 5 star rating because there were one or two that I didn't love. But: 'Aokigahara', 'Dogs', Alpine Road', 'Vox Clamantis', 'Pressure Okay' and 'Coarsegold' were all brilliant, often breathtaking. I'm in awe of writers who can move between people and places convincingly without ever sounding forced. It's tough to ...more
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was initially wooed by the sumptuous cover on Pulse Points (it reminds me of something I might find on a dress at Gorman), and the fact that Down’s novel, Our Magic Hour, was a 2017 favourite of mine. And while I enjoyed the titular story, it was the second story, Aokigahara, that reminded me that the term ‘velvet hammer’ should be applied to Down’s writing. Aokigahara tells of a young woman’s journey to the ‘suicide forest’ in Japan – all of the unsettling emotion, honesty and glorious senten ...more
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
These stories are, in a word, extraordinary. The writing is sparse but carries such emotional heft.

I adored Our Magic Hour and I'm so pleased that this follow up is just as wonderful. Down is truly an incredibly talented and perceptive storyteller.

Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aus-nz, short-stories
I love sad Australians and crying on the tram, thanks
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
One of the best short story collections I've read in a good while. Each story a convincing universe I did not want to leave, but then there was another.
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
4/5 Although I generally don’t love short stories the writing was great and mostly the stories were engaging and thought provoking.
Giovanna Walker
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
I had this on my reading list as it was recommended by various reviewers. To be honest I just didn't get into it that much. Sure it was about major life events of various characters however I only connected with one story. The writing was fine, the stories didn't grab me, I didn't find them that interesting. Sure they're about normal people, but after reading each story I just didn't care if finished the book. I did finish, and my reaction is 'meh'. I can't say that the emotional clarity 'left m ...more
Giselle A Nguyen
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wonderful collection of short stories that contain complete worlds. Down has a knack for evoking a lot of emotion in few words, and capturing realistic moments in people’s lives. These stories don’t always wrap up neatly, but nor does life itself. They showcase the loveliest and ugliest parts of humanity, and are sketched carefully and with utmost precision. Some of these stories worked better for me than others, but overall this is a mature, assured collection with a wisdom beyond the author’s ...more
Julia Tulloh Harper
Nov 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really powerful collection, totally deserved to win the Readings Prize. Not every story was a hit but overall the tone and tenor of the collection was profound. Down spends a lot of time looking extremely closely at relationships, feelings, fears & does a great job. It gets pretty dark/triggering at times, so beware of that, although occasionally I didn’t feel as though the dark material carried the gravitas it needed (or at least I didn’t respond with the gravitas I felt I was meant to feel ...more
Cade Turner-Mann
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Jennifer Down's new collection is fantastic. The stories drag you along many times waiting till the last line to sucker-punch you and leave you speechless. There were some clear stand outs such as Aokigahara and Pulse Points. Overall a highly accomplished work. A+
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Pulse Points is a collection of short stories full of vulnerable characters attempting to navigate the gutting actuality of existing with love, grief, fear and rage. Not all the stories are sad but each one has a hushed intensity that leaves you affected. Set in dusty towns, big cities and sprawling suburbs of Australia, the States, England and Japan, Jennifer's stories are almost more about what she leaves out than what she puts in. The short story genre is one of the most difficult to master, ...more
Michael Mardel
Nov 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Pulse points by Down. One of the redeeming features of this collection of short stories is that many are set in Australia, and in particular, Victoria, where one would find the town of Swan Hill. This story of Foggo shows the underbelly of Victorian police. There is little to commend the police in any state or territory of Australia, whether it is due to our Ned Kelly mentality. I skimmed through most stories, hoping for redemption in the next one though the first one, set in Japan, set the bar ...more
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
An excellent book of short stories. Down has this poignantly simple writing style that I find extremely moving. I think Down was found her voice in short stories and hope that she continues to write more in the future. Each piece was cleverly written and the book had an underlying theme of melancholy and love which put it all together. My favourite stories were We Got Used to Here Fast and Vox Clamantis but the standout piece was Coarsegold, which was a beautiful ending to the book. I can't wait ...more
Rozanna Lilley
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm partial to short stories but this collection exceeded all of my expectations. Jennifer Down is a remarkably talented writer. Each story is a perfectly enclosed world - the characters doing their level best to just keep going in a serendipitous world marked by mayhem and straightforward sadness. She interrogates disappointment and emotional dishonesty with unnerving clarity. How fantastic that this world class talent is Australian, and young, with the promise of so many more books to come. I' ...more
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The title of the short story "Alpine Road" 1 2 May 02, 2019 02:57PM  

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Jennifer Down is a writer and editor from Melbourne. Her work has appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Saturday Paper, the Lifted Brow and Overland. Her first novel, Our Magic Hour will be published in 2016. ‘Aokigahara’ won the 2014 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Award.
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