Diving Belles: And Other Stories

Diving Belles: And Other Stories - Lucy Wood My full response to this collection appears here, at Buried In Print.

Whimsical and lyrical: Lucy Wood's short stories will touch the curious and sensitive reader who is willing to believe.

If you like your stories to be rooted in realism, Diving Belles is not for you, but if you enjoy discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary, these stories will certainly satisfy.

Take this bit, from "Lights in Other People's Houses":

"His skin looked waxy, almost blue in places and she knew immediately that he was a ghost by the strange restlessness he'd brought with him into the room, a restlessness and a clamouring, as if he had disturbed a colony of nesting seabirds."

A colony of nesting seabirds?

Sure, we can all picture that.

(Especially those who share an experience of the author's Cornwall.)

Though not all readers will want to spend time, even on the page, with a restless ghost; the stories that Lucy Wood tells are populated by the unexpected.

In Lucy Wood's worlds, standing stones can move.

"There were fifteen stones there, but the number changed all the time. Some of them looked new, others were covered in lichen, which was white and webbed and looked as if the snow were creeping up the stone." (Countless Stones)

Standing stones? If you shut your eyes, you can imagine the scene. In Lucy Wood's stories, these scenes are vitally important.

In "The Giant's Boneyard":

"Nothing moved across the moor except the rain, which appeared as suddenly and soundlessly as a face pressed against a window."

And, in "Wisht":

"Most nights she heard the wisht hounds howling across the moor, maybe following her father, maybe further away than she thought."

Catch that note of anticipation? That's not unusual. Take the opening of a segment in "Beachcombing": "This was going to be a summer of storms and no doubt about it."

And, quite often, the stories revolve around a particularly dramatic event, a pure moment of change.

Occasionally, this is apparent from the story's opening, as is the case with "Lights in Other People's Houses": "The morning the wrecker appeared was the hottest so far."

Although sometimes the action quietly builds throughout the story, as with "Diving Belles":

"Demelza was sure there would be a sighting. She said that she'd recorded a lot more movement around the wreck in the past few days, but to Iris it seemed as empty and lonely as ever."

And that note of loneliness? It's a recurring theme as well, although the gaps between people can be bridged, just as the gaps between worlds, in these stories, can also be crossed.

"When she places her hand on the small of her back to guide you downstairs, towards the kettle, towards your favourite biscuits, you feel your own loneliness banished, you feel saved, which you don't think is exactly the right way around. It isn't exactly as you planned it. But in any case, you have arrived." (Of Mothers and Little People)

Stories for willing believers.