Thursday, August 30, 2012

Diving Belles by Lucy Wood

Diving Belles by Lucy Wood

Reason for Reading: TLC Book Tour.
Completion Date: August 26, 2012
In the tradition of Angela Carter, this luminous, spellbinding debut reinvents the stuff of myth.
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. Phantom hounds roam the moors and, on a windy beach, a boy and his grandmother beat back despair with an old white door.
In these stories, the line between the real and the imagined is blurred as Lucy Wood 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 bit of magic remaining in all our lives—if only we can let ourselves see it.
I was intrigued by the mention of Angela Carter in the blurb. I have read one collection by her, The Bloody Chamber, and really liked it. I keep meaning to read more, but never seem to get around to it. When I saw the tour for this Lucy Wood book, though, I decided it was meant to be. Anyone that knows me knows that I am really not a big fan of short story collections. I only read a couple a year and generally by Charles de Lint. I am so happy that I took a chance on this collection because I really enjoyed it. I can't believe it is the authors debut novel. The stories are so wonderfully crafted that they were a treat from beginning to end. That doesn't mean I necessarily loved all the stories, but more that I could appreciate each of them.

On to the stories themselves... There are mermaids, ghosts, and other strange experiences throughout the collection. The 'strange' is almost understated, though. In the sense that it is perfectly reasonable for a grown woman to go down in a submarine-type boat to find her husband. It just happens, so why question it is basically what Lucy Wood is saying. She doesn't really push the envelope because she weaves things together so well. I enjoyed that. The book is really a collection of myths and they are pulled off really well. I mentioned 'Diving Belles', the title story, earlier in this paragraph. The next story, 'Countless Stones', is basically about a connection to a structure you assume is Stonehenge or something else like it. It is told in an interesting way, though. The best part is how Wood weaves other things in. On the one hand, there are the things happening to the main character. On the other hand, though, it is about her relationship with her ex and their connection.

The third story, 'Of Mothers and Little People', is about the relationship between mother's and daughters. But, it is also a connection to nature and what you find there. Nature plays a role in most, if not all, of the stories in this collection. 'Lights in Other People's Homes' is about the strong connection to the pull of the sea. I know that if I moved away from the sea I would miss it. It has been a part of my entire life so far. 'Magpies' is quite simply, and yet not so simply, about a man and a magpie. 'The Giant's Boneyard' is about a relationship as well, but there is more to it than that. The ending of this one was a bit strange. Then, there is 'Beachcombing'. This is the story of a grandmother and her grandson and their connection. I liked the ending of this one. It seemed a fitting moment for the overall story.

'Notes from the House Spirits' number one has a title that I love!  It is quite literally a story that is a collection of notes from the House Spirits. I really liked this story because it actually makes you think a bit about your own house and the whole idea of things maybe watching you... Then, we have 'The Wishing Tree'. This story is a bit heart-breaking. There is this one moment that really caught me up. Another story of the relationship between mother and daughter. It is also a story about wishes. The story 'Blue Moon' kind of starts with a bang and you are not entirely sure what to think, but then the story plays out and you get how everything comes together. There are a couple connections in this story and it is also not entirely happy. 'Wisht' is about the relationship between a father and a daughter. A quiet story that has a lot more going on than meets the eye.

The last story, 'Some Drolls are Like This and Some are Like This', was an interesting note to end things on. It was a sad tale. It is also about the loss of stories. I thought it was a fitting ending to the collection. So, there is a brief summary to the collection. As you can see most of the stories are about nature. They are also about relationships. Then they include something mythological. That is where the real similarities end. I strongly recommend this short story collection. I can't wait to see what Lucy Wood does next!


  1. I liked quite a few of the stories though some made me say, "Wha?" I loved Notes from the House Spirits!

  2. Anonymous3:08 PM

    intrigued. I would never have given that cover a second look and never picked up the book, but now I must check this one out. thanks for the review!

    ~L (omphaloskepsis)

  3. I've read about this one, and it sounds so interesting, the way the magic is included. I'm not a lover of short stories myself but I do like the way they are so specific and detailed, it's like a step between fiction and poetry sometimes. I like what you describe of the Stonehenge-like story and the House Spirits one very interesting.

  4. You probably won't be surprised to hear I too was sold by the Carter comparison :P I'm glad it lived up to your expectations! I'll have to pick it up sometime.

  5. Oooh, I think this one definitely needs to the wish list. Like right up near the top. :)

  6. I like what you've said about the interweaving; that really does add a terrific dimension to these stories. I'm not sure that I'd've come across this one without the tour, so I'm happy to have been part of that!

  7. I think I'd really enjoy this collection! Thanks for the review for the tour.

  8. I just read this one yesterday. I liked it, but didn't love it. Diving Belles felt a lot like many other modern short story collections, with squeaky clean writing and little variation in style. There's a great mood to the collection and a lovely fantasy overlay, but a few of the stories felt like they weren't anything particularly innovative. That said, I think the collection is overall quite good and I did particularly like "Beachcombing" and "Notes from the House Spirits" - both very strong stories with good characterization, style and tone. Wood certainly knows how to write strange and special stories.


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