A collection of stories from one of my favourite writers, one I’ve followed assiduously for some time and can honestly say that she has never disappointed me. Nor does she with this offering. The stories range from a girl who manages to deflect initial hostility and attain the friendship of the roughest and safest harbour. But beware. What she finds taking place in an old shed on a nearby farm may well haunt you for some time.
These stories are sensual and gentle for the most part, they are slice of life stories, but not in the sense of a kitchen sink mentality. They often have a disturbing side to them, something that may shake you out of your sense of the normal or ordinary. A woman goes for a walk on a beach and is followed by a large white dog. She manages to make friends with it, but then sends it away. As she returns to her hotel she is greeted by the hotel doctor, only to learn that her boyfriend has been savagely attacked by a large white dog.
It is not so much the events of the stories, but her beguiling yet down to earth recounting of them. The gorgeous prose and the exquisite characterisations, especially in the first story Butcher’s Perfume, are oddly fitting for the ambiguities of the tales. Each one has a sense of how contingent our existence is, of how things can change in a moment and how lives can be thrown out of kilter by a few words, a moment of inattentiveness. These stories tell mostly of love, grown-up, highly-charged love, and the cost to our personal experience of it too.