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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!, 7 Mar 2014
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This review is from: The Face at the Window: Three Stories (Kindle Edition)
Perfect short stories all with a great chill factor - I say bitesize bedtime reading! Read them if you dare!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Three beautifully crafted stories, 1 Mar 2014
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This review is from: The Face at the Window: Three Stories (Kindle Edition)
Louise Welsh has written three superb stories for this book. Her writing flows beautifully and lulls the reader into a false sense of security; this is despite her introduction which assures you you're in for a scary ride! Her ability to pull off a twist is extraordinary. The modernity of her tales means that there is no atmospheric set up; it is purely her clever writing which makes you see ghostly activity in settings that will be familiar to all of us. Really lovely book, can't recommend enough.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Three great stories PLUS a tormenting sneak preview of her new novel, 18 Feb 2014
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Melanie Garrett (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Face at the Window: Three Stories (Kindle Edition)
Starting back to front, can I just say how frustrated I am that 'A Lovely way to burn', the first title in Louise Welsh’s forthcoming Plague Trilogy, isn’t out yet. I was utterly gripped by this extract, and now I am left thinking, why, oh, why, didn’t I just wait until nearer the time to read the sneak preview? Roll on 20th March.

Luckily, what is available now is this new trilogy of short stories, <em>The Face at the window</em> and to be fair, there is plenty to content ourselves with here while we wait. Paradoxically, I personally wish Louise’s Introduction to this collection had been delivered as an ‘Afterword’ instead. But since I can’t tell you specifically why this is without generating a SPOILER ALERT, you’ve been warned…

For me, a big part of the pleasure of reading a ghost story lies in not knowing whether it really is a ghost story at all. So, while I thoroughly enjoyed this collection, I’d personally have preferred to come at the stories with no expectations of what the author feels about ghosts herself until after I'd drawn my own conclusions between the lines on the page. However, having launched myself straight into the first story, ‘The Face at the Window’ right after reading what sort of a project this was for the author, I realised I went in not expecting there to be any supernatural element to what was happening. This meant Fiona's haunting fell a bit flat for me at first. While there's no denying the explanation offered in the narrative for the intruder/apparition turned out to be canny enough, overall this story seemed like an exercise in stylistics, as though the main energy was going into blurring the fine line between things which go bump in the night and the rational world, rather than into inhabiting the characters in the here and now. Nevertheless, there were the usual flashes of vernacular I so adore in Welsh’s work (linking the secret door to the Castevet’s New York apartment in Rosemary’s Baby to an Edinburgh 'glory hole', and ‘in the name of the wee man’, to pick just two). But part of me wonders whether I might have felt more engaged with this story had I not just read the intro leading me to expect the outcome to involve a perfectly logical explanation. Having said all of this, it was an extremely useful story to read, because it helped crystallise in my own mind what it is I love so much about Louise Welsh’s work - namely the seamless fusion of character and language.

With ‘Realm of the Census’ I felt we were back on much more Welshian ground straight from the delightful title. All the verve and fire is here, and with both set-up and back-story deftly flashing by almost unnoticed as the whole thing rushes onwards to the pay-off. As ever, it’s impossible not to admire the way Welsh takes the trappings of ordinary lives and deploys them as signposts of theme, such as, 'The fur trim that had framed her face so nicely in the shop, like something a Russian princess might wear, blinkered her view and an attacker could easily creep up without her noticing,’ or 'there was no option but to pull her hood back up, or arrive at the next address looking like a suicide by drowning’. There is pathos in the character’s own attempts to deride her fears, when really she ought to been tuning into them. The use of language here is all so wonderful that it seems almost churlish to pick out favourite lines, but since I can’t really help myself, you’ll need to just bear with me or move on to another review. In a collection where several things/people/apparition disappear into shadows and darkness, Welsh turns the tables and gets the hairs up on your neck with and old woman ‘turning away, disappearing into the light’. And I defy anyone from reading the line ‘the was something old bones and nasty about it’ and not stopping to think, Wow!

If, like me, you see Louise Welsh as puppet master of language and imagination, then I know you will love ‘The Queen of Craigielee’, a graffiti figure who reigns gloriously from the walls of a condemned high-rise with ‘eyes for nipples and teeth where no teeth should be’. As well as delivering on a slipstream level, this story is profoundly empathetic, choosing socio-political realities in modern day Scotland, and the ghosts of displaced families and lives, as its backdrop. No one who has seen the carcasses of these former private dwellings left open to the elements while the demolitions drag on could fail to be moved by Ailsa’s observations ‘The first apartment looked like it had been painted with the dregs of other decorating jobs. Lilac, pistachio, lemon and aqua clashed across the small sitting room cum kitchen,’ or ' Emptied of furniture and tenants, the rooms – identical in size and shape – remained distinct, and Ailsa felt she could almost glimpse the people who’d lived in them.’ It is perhaps because this story is so firmly rooted in a world I recognise and know to be true that I found it to be the most haunting of the three wee treats on offer here. But, if I'm being honest, the one issue I have with ’The Queen of Craigielee’ is that when you get to the end of it, without warning, you find yourself teetering on the threshold of those three opening chapters of <em>A lovely way to burn</em>, forced to keep asking yourself, oh man, is it still only February?
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