What’s Lights In Other People’s Houses all about?:
Lights In Other Peoples’s Houses is about a young couple who receive the ghost of a ship wrecker in their home as inch by inch the sea returns to re-claim it.
What did I think?:
This is the fourth story in Lucy Wood’s debut collection, and by now you would think I would be used to the fact that her stories are a little bit strange and very fantastical. Yet still I find myself surprised at the beginning right through to the end of each tale. It tells the story of a young couple, Maddy and Russell who moved into a flat eight months ago but are still not quite at home there. This is especially true of Maddy who misses living near the sea dreadfully and experiences its loss as an almost physical ache, kidding herself that she can still smell it within the four walls. Maddy may not be far off with her imaginings however as on one particularly non-eventful day she comes face to face with a ghost who decides to inhabit the house with them. Maddy has promised Russell repeatedly that she would sort through some boxes of her parents items but has been putting the task off, and finds the ghost (who was a “wrecker,” in life), sorting through the boxes himself and deciding what is good enough to keep, as he had once perhaps scoured shipwrecks for hidden treasures.
As the wrecker continues his stay with Maddy and Russell, more and more of the sea enters the house, in the form of physical objects such as shells and stones, and the damp that begins to gradually rise on the walls, as water rises over sunken ships. The wrecker also appears to be getting more and more upset as the days pass, demanding to know where he is and where all the water has gone to, mirroring Maddy’s own memories and fondness for the sea, and exacerbating her own heart-break as she feels herself being dragged further away from it. As the wrecker prolongs his visit with the couple, their own relationship begins to suffer as a result, with Russell leaving earlier and earlier for work, and Maddy feeling increasingly “lost and cast adrift.”
I’m not sure why, but I didn’t gel with this story as much as I have done with the previous tales in this collection. There is no mistaking the haunting beauty of the author’s words to set an imaginable scene in the readers minds, but for some reason, I felt slightly disconnected from the story and the characters which spoiled my enjoyment of it as a whole. The ending, as always, is abrupt and somewhat ambiguous, and while I have enjoyed this sort of ending from Lucy Wood in the past, it didn’t feel right in this story. That being said, she is an incredible writer with bags of talent and oodles of imagination and I’m looking forward to reading more of her work.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Child of Light by Randy Taguchi from the collection Fujisan