>> Saturday, May 05, 2012
Straying husbands lured into the sea by mermaids can be fetched back, for a fee. Trees can make wishes come true. Houses creak and keep a fretful watch on their inhabitants, straightening shower curtains and worrying about frayed carpets. A mother, who seems alone and lonely, may be rubbing sore muscles or holding the hands of her invisible lover as he touches her neck. Wisht hounds roam the moors, and, on a windy beach, a boy and his grandmother beat back despair with an old white door.As I mentioned in my April wrap-up post, I read 3 different collections of short stories during April, when I don't usually go for them at all. One was great, one was good and one was terrible. This is the good one.
Diving Belles is a luminous, spellbinding debut that introduces Lucy Wood as a spectacular new voice in fiction. In these stories, the line between the real and the imagined is blurred, as she takes us to Cornwall’s ancient coast, building on its rich storytelling history and recasting its myths in thoroughly contemporary ways. Calling forth the fantastic and fantastical, she mines these legends for that little bit of magic that remains in all our lives— if only we can let ourselves see it.
Reading the first story in this book gave rise to great hopes to the rest. It's set in a village where mermaids often come for the men and take them into the sea with them. But now someone's established a service which allows women to go down in a diving bell and fetch their husbands back. Ivy's husband left decades ago, but she decides to give it a try. I loved this. It was atmospheric and strange and clever, and beautifully written. I settled down to read the rest...
... and I ended up a bit nonplussed. There are a few more like that, maybe half of the twelve, like the one with the woman who periodically turns to stone, the one about the the retirement home for magical beings, or the one narrated by the spirits living in a house. Those were odd and quirky and original, and I loved them.
But then there are also several which I didn't get at all, and had to force myself to finish. Those left me feeling a bit grumpy, as I had the feeling there was supposed to be something there that I wasn't getting, and I had been too bored by them to go back and reread them and try to find it.
So mixed results, but the ones I liked were so good that in the end, I'm glad I read this.
MY GRADE: A B.