Bloomsbury £14.99

Diving Belles, By Lucy Wood

Away with the fairies and mermen

Cornwall's magic casts some pretty strong spells. The stories in Lucy Wood's debut collection have a distinctly otherworldly sensation to them – slightly surreal, steeped in enchantments and shimmering with an infusion of the area's folklore and landscape. This is a world in which fairies and spirits and bards circulate freely – and steal just as freely from modern-day television soaps – while humans are tethered by conditions of love, nostalgia and regret.

Cornwall's physical elements – the stones, the sea, the woods, the moors, the fields – constantly lay claim to the human inhabitants as they go about their daily lives. In "Countless Stones", a woman turns slowly to stone – toe by toe, limb by limb – as she helps her ex-boyfriend shop for a new house, and in "Of Mothers and Little People" a visiting daughter wonders at her mother's new, hallucinatory love interest. In "Lights in Other People's Houses", an old-fashioned shipwreck salvager invades a couple's flat, bringing sand, seawater and humidity with him, as well as a taste for daytime TV. Before long, tiny seashells are pouring out of bathroom taps instead of water. In Wood's title story, fishermen-husbands have an alternate life as seal-sleek mermen under the sea, and a woman named Demelza runs a thriving business using an ancient diving bell to help wives retrieve their men, if only temporarily.

Wood's writing ranges from thriller-film creepy to full-on mischievous. In the chilling "Notes From the House Spirits", watchful eyes appreciate the echoes and whistles of an empty house, mournfully noting abandoned items: "A rocking horse with a missing eye. A plastic skull. A suitcase stuffed full of receipts and discount vouchers. A roll of carpet. A cricket bat and a deflated football. Four nails and six drawing pins. A bunch of dry white flowers." But it's in the excellent "Blue Moon", the tale of a delightfully unconventional retirement home, that Wood's work shines brightest. In the Blue Moon Nursing Home, oversubscribed on a global level, inmates keep arrowroot, yarrow, mandrake in their rooms, along with potions that taste of homesickness. The staff have their hands full with odd housekeeping challenges – not to mention packs of familiars racing about – but the atmosphere is friendly and functional.

Throughout these stories, Wood strikes a sure and canny balance of worlds colliding and merging; her wry and gentle humour emphasises that fusion all the more.

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk