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Diving Belles [Hardcover]

Lucy Wood
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
RRP: £14.99
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Book Description

19 Jan 2012

Along Cornwall's ancient coast, the flotsam and jetsam of the past becomes caught in the cross-currents of the present and, from time to time, a certain kind of magic can float to the surface...

Straying husbands lured into the sea can be fetched back, for a fee. Magpies whisper to lonely drivers late at night. Trees can make wishes come true - provided you know how to wish properly first. Houses creak, fill with water and keep a fretful watch on their inhabitants, straightening shower curtains and worrying about frayed carpets. A teenager's growing pains are sometimes even bigger than him. And, on a windy beach, a small boy and his grandmother keep despair at bay with an old white door.

In these stories, Cornish folklore slips into everyday life. Hopes, regrets and memories are entangled with catfish, wrecker's lamps, standing stones and baying hounds, and relationships wax and wane in the glow of a moonlit sea.

This luminous, startling and utterly spellbinding debut collection introduces in Lucy Wood a spectacular new voice in contemporary British fiction.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (19 Jan 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408816857
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408816851
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.1 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 405,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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These stories are brilliantly uncanny: not because of the ghosts and giants and talking birds which haunt their margins, but because of what those unsettling presences mean for the very human characters at their centre ... A startling, and startlingly good, debut (Jon McGregor)

Lucy Wood has an intensity and clarity of expression, deeply rooted in a sense of place. Her stories have a purity and strength, and an underlying human warmth; they resonate in the mind (Philip Hensher)

Each year, book blurbs tell you that a thousand new writers have fresh, distinctive voices. But fresh, distinctive voices are actually very rare. Lucy Wood has one (Michel Faber)

Enchanting short stories (Guardian, Books of the Year)

These are stories from the places where magic and reality meet. It is as if the Cornish moors and coasts have whispered secrets into Lucy Wood's ears and, in response, she has fashioned exquisite tales of mystery and humanity. In her prose, the fabulous moves across the everyday like the surf moving over the shore, shifting it in subtle measures, leaving it altered in its wake (Ali Shaw, author of The Girl with Glass Feet)

Cornish folklore for the modern day done in a beautiful, spooky way (Harper's Bazaar)

A vibrant new voice (Tatler)

Utterly different in every way from Keret, in their Angela Carter-ish Englishness, but equally compelling (Erica Wagner The Times)

Wood's finely wrought collection has touches of a benign Angela Carter and recalls the playful yet political transmogrifications of Atwood and Byatt (Guardian)

[A] refreshing debut collection about seasiders young and old ... A winning combination of spooky mystery and toast-and-tea cosiness, with much warmth and tenderness, even as an unsettling quality remains, as if Wood might be enjoying a joke you can't quite figure out (Metro)

One of the best aspects of these stories is the way in which the daily lives of their characters become imbued with a mystical, folkloric significance ... although many readers will enjoy the evocations of Cornish myth and the looming presence of the landscape, Wood's major talent is as an observer of the everyday (Times Literary Supplement)

Wood plays with the county's myth and folklore to make it seem exotic and eldritch ... Wood has a wonderfully deadpan way with her surreal subject matter, and writes equally well about the more quotidian topics of work and love (Literary Review)

Her use of Cornish folk tales as the backdrop for very modern tales of loss and loneliness was inspired (Jon McGregor, Irish Times)

Book Description

A luminous, startling and utterly spellbinding debut which introduces a spectacular new voice in contemporary British fiction

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just stunning 21 Mar 2012
By Curiosity Killed The Bookworm TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Oh Diving Belles, how I love thee so.

I would leave the review at that but I accept that it won't help you much. Diving Belles is a beautiful short story collection by Lucy Wood that weaves the sea, the land, the people and the mythology of Cornwall into enchanting yet modern tales.

There are tales of husbands lost at sea but not lost forever. The wife that takes a trip in a diving bell for one last encounter. The house, slowly reclaimed by the sea. The pagan care home. Tales of the young and of the old. Yet they feel very grounded in everyday life. The woman who is turning into stone checks that there's nothing in the fridge that will go off whilst she's otherwise engaged.

Notes from the House Spirits is probably my favourite story. Told from the point of view of the house or the spirits of the house, they watch humans come and go. They don't see things quite the same way we would yet they record the history of the house and its inhabitants. Odd that this is the least Cornish of the stories yet I absolutely adored her descriptions of the sea and coast in the others. The house could reside anywhere, though it does feel like a rural setting. I've always been fond of novels where the house is almost a character in the story so for one to revolve around it was a treat.

Even the placement of the final story is fitting, showing that it is a combined piece of work and not a random collection of short prose. The droll seems to pull together elements of the stories and also give the sense of an ending. Indeed, this quote may echo some of your feelings as you reach the end:

"So, he had let the stories slip away. They weren't buried anywhere. He thought they might have been buried somewhere. He realised now why the world had become flat and empty.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting collection of stories 31 Jan 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found this short story collection very impressive.

Lucy Wood conjures up a world where the most bizarre and the most everyday things rub shoulders easily. A care home caters for clients who aren't accepted anywhere else - chiefly retired witches and wizards. A company, the "Diving Belles' of the title story, helps women to retrieve their stolen-away menfolk from the sea using a diving bell (and net). You can even buy gift vouchers. A woman is distracted from urgent chores by her slightly annoying ex. The things she really needs to do (locking the windows, emptying the fridge, calling her boss to say she won't be at work for a bit) have to be completed soon, before she turns into a standing stone, a state of affairs which could last months or years. A boy visits his grandmother who has taken to living in a cave on the beach. The spirits on an empty house recall, with slight puzzlement, the ebb and flow of life over generations of its occupants. And so on. The stories are full of loneliness and regret. Couples meet and awkwardly fail to communicate. Things change and may be coming out right or they may not: the stories often take place on the cusp of changes or transformations, and often they don't quite give away what happened in the end. We just have to imagine it.

Wood has a real gift for making these extraordinary circumstances seem entirely natural - and thereby placing "normal" experiences and dilemmas (a teenager's uncertainty about "growing up", a sick parent, a grieving widow who feels guilty after her husband drowned) in a startling new light. This is summed up in the final story, where a storyteller wanders a small town, as if in farewell. Things seem to be coming to an end for him.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Diving Belles a Beauty 6 Mar 2012
By J
Diving Belles by Lucy Wood is a fabulous journey through the concerns of this modern world, as seen through the prism of ancient myths and legends. Each of the short stories is a self-contained wonder, however it is very hard to just read one at a time, once you have immersed yourself. Excellent to share, reading aloud, or to read alone for instant transportation to the other side of life; a key factor to a good 'fairy story'. Having read this short story collection, my heart has renewed hope that Angela Carter's legacy is alive and kicking.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I am very nearly lost for words 18 Jan 2012
Often the books you love are the most difficult to write about.

How do you capture just what makes them so very, very magical?

Diving Belles is one of those books.

It hold twelve short stories.

Contemporary stories that are somehow timeless. Because they are suffused with the spirit of Cornwall, the thing that I can't capture in words that makes the place where I was born so very, very magical.

Lucy Wood so clearly understands what it is about the sea, what it is is about the moorland. The beauty, the power, the mystery... I don't have the words, but she does.

And she threads all of this through scenes from contemporary life. She catches turning points, moments to remember, stories that should be retold.

There's a pinch of magic too.

So one woman may travel in a diving bell to bring home a husband lost at sea. And another may be called back home when spirit of the sea permeates her inland home.

It feels strange, it feels other-worldly, and yet it feels utterly real.

I was unsettled and I was enraptured.

I turned the pages back and forth, not wanting to leave, and because there was something elusive that I couldn't quite hold on to.

Such lovely writing, and such a wonderful spirit.

An extraordinary debut.

I am struggling for words but, make no mistake, I am smitten.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 9 days ago by Willow
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical, imaginative writing.
Lucy Wood's skill with words is something very special.
Published 19 days ago by P. Dean
3.0 out of 5 stars Modern Fairy Tales
Fantastical tales, most of which feature the sea and a heightened sense of the (super)natural world. Read more
Published 4 months ago by J. Ang
5.0 out of 5 stars Diving Belles
What a wonderful collection of stories which just transport you away to a world the same yet so different to our own. Read more
Published 5 months ago by hok
4.0 out of 5 stars Buy don't borrow
I enjoyed listening to some of these when they were first broadcast on Radio 4 and gained equal pleasure on reading them. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Maria Alm
5.0 out of 5 stars Where the everyday situations become part of an older, more magical...
I really enjoyed this book which gives a different take on folk tales and traditional stories. This is where the everyday suddenly becomes a very different landscape and yet there... Read more
Published 12 months ago by rachel roberts
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Stories
Beautifully written.
just couldn't stop reading each story to the end.
Can't wait for more from this author, in particular Grandma and Oscar! Read more
Published 12 months ago by Fran
3.0 out of 5 stars different
Unusual stories Which I found hard to engage with. Took too long to get through and although they do stay in the mind they were rather too ambiguous for me.
Published 15 months ago by Expat Brazil
5.0 out of 5 stars Bright & beautiful as a walk by the sea
This is an astonishingly finely crafted debut collection of stories in which the flotsam of myth mingles with the jetsam of reality. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Sue B
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I really wanted to enjoy this as I liked the premise of the stories, but sadly I only read a few of the tales and then gave up. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Monkey Man
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