Diving Belles, By Lucy Wood
Away with the fairies and mermen
Sunday 22 January 2012
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.
Review: A panoramic account of the hacking scandalbooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Russell Brand accuses FOX News anchor Sean Hannity of terrorism after aggressive Israel-Gaza debate
- 2 Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness – including don’t try to convert other people
- 3 Arturo Vidal to Manchester United: Midfielder set to force through move to Louis van Gaal's Red Devils - reports
- 4 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 5 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Land for gas: Merkel and Putin discussed secret deal could end Ukraine crisis
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
- < Previous
- Next >