Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Diving Belles and Other Stories" by Lucy Wood

English magical realism?

Lucy Wood's "Diving Belles: And Other Stories" is replete with the surreal, the impossible, the unlikely, and the illusory.

As is often the case when artists or scientists delve into such subjects, it becomes difficult to tell what is real and what is extraordinary, which is part of the fun here.

Other times it is quite clear that the extra-worldly souls in "Notes from the House of Spirits" are talking to you, telling the stories of its many inhabitants. Or that the two teenagers feeling out their relationship while on the moor are, in fact, frolicking in "The Giant's Boneyard."

These precious little oddities are not page-turners. Ms. Wood does not focus her energies on plotting. Rather she is a mistress of atmospheres. The moody seascapes of her native Cornwall effectively darken one's spirits, its towering cliffs leave the reader desolate.

She makes place palpable.

Things don't happen in these stories, so much as they solidify like pudding and slowly grind to a halt, as is the case with the woman in "Countless Stones" who slowly turns to rock over the course of its pages.

These are primarily stories of endings and tend towards subjects pushed to the margins by their failing bodies, expiring energy, folding under the weight of memories that outnumber those who don't live centuries and are not condemned to roaming the cosmos eternally.

"Diving Belles" is a series of impressionistic puzzles peppered with hints and come-ons that simultaneously alter a reader's mood and challenge them to assemble the evidence and craft a narrative where one is only slyly suggested.

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