Smart Ovens for Lonely People Book Review

Smart Ovens for Lonely People

Conspiracies, memes, and therapies of various efficacy underpin this beguiling short-story collection

Release Date
Jun 01, 2020
Elizabeth Tan
Page Count
What To Expect
Weird and wonderful; dazzling stories; brilliantly crafted
Who's it for?
Creative types
Short Stories, Fiction


Conspiracies, memes, and therapies of various efficacy underpin this beguiling short-story collection from Elizabeth Tan.

In the titular story, a cat-shaped oven tells a depressed woman she doesn’t have to be sorry anymore. A Yourtopia Bespoke Terraria employee becomes paranoid about the mounting coincidences in her life. Four girls gather to celebrate their underwear in ‘Happy Smiling Underwear Girls Party’, a hilarious take-down of saccharine advertisements.

With her trademark wit and slicing social commentary, Elizabeth Tan’s short stories are as funny as they are insightful. This collection cements her role as one of Australia’s most inventive writers. (From the publisher.)


Oof, that type.

A peculiar cover demands attention from readers and this one is no exception. Don’t you just want to wander into that inviting jungle and meet the cat who is silently judging you from between the glorious typography? I for one want to know its story.


Elizabeth Tan writes with such a confident, certain manner and it’s a delight. She is truly a word weaver who revels in language, not just for its function but its form.


Hands up who has endless time to read? Anyone? Annnnyone??

That’s why I throw up my hands to praise short story collections. And this one takes the cake when it comes to my favourite book of the year.

I must make a full disclosure here: while I count author Elizabeth Tan as a friend, I am by no means writing from a biased point-of-view.

This. Book. Is. Amazing.

Here are a few words that come to mind when thinking about the spectacle that is this book: imaginative, witty, unpredictable, awe-inspiring, surreal, kitsch, twee, explosive.

Smart Ovens for Lonely People is a quirky collection of short stories that will have you marvelling at Tan’s creative brain. And while the stories are short on length, their themes and complexity are far from it.

Tan’s absurdist tales are beautifully written and will slap you awake with the intelligence and curly manoeuvres quietly lurking beneath seemingly suburban subject matter.

From the moment I saw its title, I knew this would be a keeper. (That, and the fact that there is a chapter titled ‘Ron Swanson’s Stencilled ‘Stache’.) Smart Ovens for Lonely People suggests a whimsical adventure which nods to a serious message, if you read closely enough between the lines.

This singular suite of stories is fun and funny, with layered messages that should make us all pay attention. Themes of capitalism and commercialisation peek their head between the lines of enjoyable prose. Futuristic plot lines will make you curious, and for anyone from Perth, there’s a lovely sense of provenance that will make those stories *just* that bit more special.

What a perfect book to transport you from reality to absurdity and back again. As ever with a short story compilation, you can pick this up when you’ve got a few minutes to spare, and marvel in the splendour of a well-told tale.


Smart Ovens for Lonely People
A colourful, curated blend of books, wine and creativity, with a soft spot for Australian work and female-centric narratives.

Fable and Fizz would like to acknowledge the Whadjuck Noongar people as the traditional owners and continual custodians on the lands and waters this content is primarily written on. I pay respects to their Elders — past and present. This always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.
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