Diving Belles Hardcover – 19 Jan 2012
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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)
A luminous, startling and utterly spellbinding debut which introduces a spectacular new voice in contemporary British fictionSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
A feature that binds these stories together in this collection is Wood's interweaving of magical elements into realist settings. For example, in "Countless Stones" a woman gradually turns to stone from her toes upwards in the heart of winter, while she good-naturedly house-hunts with an ex-boyfriend. It reminded me of A. S. Byatt's story, "A Stone Woman", from her 2003 collection "Little Black Book of Stories".
There is a dreamlike quality to most of the pieces, especially in "Notes from the House Spirits", where in an ironic twist, the ghosts in a house are distressed by the sudden departure of an occupant without taking her belongings. The spirits note that "they have become left-behind things. They have become awkward and extra, things that don't belong. It is inevitable."
Familial relationships are explored in other stories like "Mothers and Little People" where a grownup daughter presumes the loneliness of her divorced mother during a visit, and accidentally 'sees' that the latter might not be as isolated as she thought when she smears on her mom's mysterious eye cream.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An enthralling book of short stories which take their roots from Cornish folk tales and then riff on their possibilities for modern life.Published 5 months ago by Kindle Customer
What a wonderful collection of stories which just transport you away to a world the same yet so different to our own. Read morePublished on 23 May 2014 by hok
I enjoyed listening to some of these when they were first broadcast on Radio 4 and gained equal pleasure on reading them. Read morePublished on 23 Dec. 2013 by Yvonne Moore
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 morePublished on 3 Nov. 2013 by rachel roberts
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
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 on 30 July 2013 by Expat Brazil
This is an astonishingly finely crafted debut collection of stories in which the flotsam of myth mingles with the jetsam of reality. Read morePublished on 27 Jun. 2013 by Sue B