Sunday, July 6, 2014
Diving Belles by Lucy Wood
Some of the tales incorporate Cornish folklore, such as leaving a fish offering to appease hobgoblins called buccas. The landscape is nearly a character in its own right, while thrift and other coastal plants are ever present.
"Nothing moved across the moor except the rain, which appeared as suddenly and soundlessly as a face pressed against a window."
I savoured these stories slowly, opening my heart to their charms. Things are often not as they appear. "What you mistook for sadness is love."
A woman is sometimes a hare, as in 'Blue Moon.' In this tale, a kindly receptionist narrates her experiences in a nursing home for elderly folk with witchy abilities. "We kept finding them down at the harbour trying to sell the wind to fishermen in lengths of knotted rope. [...] Most days the phone wouldn't ring at all so I was roped into doing extra cleaning. There had been a spate of pentagrams appearing on the common room carpet, marked out in salt, and I had to hoover them up. It's a real pain because the grains bind themselves to the carpet fibres and won't shift unless you keep a pinch of salt on your tongue. By the end of it you're parched."
Each story carries fresh astonishments, so I have readalike suggestions for seven out out of the twelve individually, as well as for the collection in general.
'Diving Belles' (title story) - The Brides of Rollrock Island (Margo Lanagan)
'Countless Stones' - The Girl with Glass Feet (Ali Shaw)
'Of Mothers and Little People' - Some Kind of Fairy Tale (Graham Joyce)
'Lights in Other People's Houses' - The Ghosts of Kerfol (Deborah Noyes)
'The Giant's Boneyard' - Yellowcake (Margo Lanagan)
'Notes from the House Spirits' - the chorus of maids in Penelopiad (Margaret Atwood); and the sentient house in End of the World Blues (Jon Courtenay Grimwood).
'Blue Moon' - Tenth of December (George Saunders)
Additional readalikes for the collection as a whole: Jagannath (Karin Tidbeck); Vampires in the Lemon Grove (Karen Russell); and Pretty Monsters (Kelly Link).