What’s The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter all about?:
The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter tells the story of a young woman who carries on the family business (of making coffins of course!) after her father’s death. However, she is unable to escape a ghostly presence and influence…
What did I think?:
Before reading this story, I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of Angela Slatter or her short fiction. Fortunately, this is now not the case and on the strength of this story I have invested in her collection Sourdough And Other Stories which was also recommended to me by my fellow blogger FictionFan. The story opens on a young woman, Hepsibah Ballantyne, visiting a client whose father had recently passed away. Hepsibah is a partner in the family business of making coffins – although Hepsibah notes that as her father never had a son to assist him, instead of naming the company BALLANTYNE & DAUGHTER, he has officiously decided on the charming BALLANTYNE & OTHER. Hepsibah’s father has also recently passed away (or so she hoped) but worst luck for her is that she has to endure his ghostly presence looming over her constantly and suffer endless barbs and criticisms, much as she had to when he was alive. There is one consolidation however, at least now she no longer has to undergo the physical abuse he afflicted on her:
“Nowadays his fists pass through me, causing nothing more than a sense of cold ebbing in my veins. I do not miss the bruises.”
The reader can perhaps see where this is going when her client, the daughter of the dead man, opens the door. Our coffin-maker is almost dumbstruck at the beauty of the wealthy Lucette D’Aguillar and is in awe of her presence, even attempting to hide her hands which unhappily take a bit of a bashing during the process of making a coffin. Hepsibah enters the house and gives them some advice on their mourning procedure, for example covering the mirror in order that the deceased may not enter it and watch over them. In return, she promises them the finest coffin their money can buy, indeed a work of art rather than a corpse holder, with assurances that as long as they have kept the body wrapped there is no change of the deceased walking again. Of course it’s necessary to have not one but three golden locks, he must be kept IN, no expense spared!
These are two very clever young women, and they seem to both have a agenda on their hands which I don’t want to ruin for anybody reading this story for the first time. The author does a brilliant job of gripping the reader for the whole length of the tale although my personal opinion of the characters seemed to shift backwards and forwards quite rapidly! Apart from the father of course, who seems to be the epitome of everything that is rotten and wrong with the world. His continued presence in his daughter’s life makes it pure misery and throws more than one iron into the fire, so as to speak. There are quite a lot of unanswered questions, sure, and the ending seemed to turn everything completely around but it definitely left me craving more and imagining possible scenarios after the final sentence, which is the sign of a good short story and a talented author. I can’t wait to read more from Angela Slatter and hope to incorporate some more of her work into my reviews as soon as I can.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft