What’s Black Dust all about?:
The second story in this collection, Black Dust is the tale of two friends, Bryn and Andy who are both coal miner’s sons in Warwickshire. The two boys are practically inseparable in their friendship, however there is tension between their fathers.
What did I think?:
After the brilliant, award-winning “Leningrad Nights” which was the first story in this collection, I was expecting great things, and unfortunately with this second offering, I was slightly disappointed. The story revolves around the friendship between two boys who do everything together, including exploring the caves that surround their town. The beginning of the story feels slightly dark, as the reader is told about Bryn’s father Ike, a mysterious man who makes his ominous presence known to his wife and son whenever he returns home from the mine. Andy, who goes round there to play, is often told to leave quickly whenever Bryn’s father appears, and he is presented as a gruff, violent figure that often takes his temper out on his son. On one particular incident where Andy’s father sees bruises on Bryn and is given the excuse that he “fell off a ladder,” he is determined to go round and confront Ike and warns him against raising his hands to his son again.
The “black dust” in the title of this short story refers to the coal mining dust that is a constant feature of Bryn’s house – over the gate, down the path, on the door handle. Bryn’s father is very particular that no-one should trail coal dust into the house and shoes must be taken off before entering. On this particular day, Andy’s father has become trapped within the mine, and Ike is part of a rescue team trying to save him. The boys go out to their usual haunt, the caves while the rescue attempt is happening, and Bryn reassures Andy that his father will be able to get him out. We also learn about how Ike and Stan both tackle fatherhood, and there are hints that although Ike has been violent, he shows his love for his son in other ways. I’m not going to give away the ending, but it did surprise me, and kept me thinking and analysing it for the rest of the day. Although I don’t think Black Dust holds a candle to the brilliance of the previous story Leningrad Nights, I did enjoy the style of writing and look forward to reading more from Graham Joyce.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Clara And The Rat Man by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: Crimson Petal Stories.