Short Stories Challenge – Corrugated Dreaming by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Published November 8, 2015 by bibliobeth


What’s Corrugated Dreaming all about?:

Corrugated Dreaming is the story of a woman in prison, reflecting back on her life and the crime she committed to put her in the situation in which she now finds herself.

What did I think?:

I love starting a short story collection such as this one where I know practically nothing about the writer or her work, especially when the first story in the collection is as beautifully worded and presented like this one is. When we first meet our character she is in prison and she is looking back on a life that has been far from easy. The first thing we learn about her is that she is mute but she hasn’t always been this way. Her early childhood is described as the happiest time of her life where she played with her older brother Johnny in a scrapyard which acts as their garden filled with dis-used vehicles and corrugated iron. Her mother we are told, lives with a demon called Reg who is clearly a drunk and beats her mother in front of the children, one time throwing her into the iron in the yard.

Our character remembers that day very clearly as it is after this incident that Social Services arrives to take the children away and it is the last time that she sees her brother Johnny, who is the closest person in her life and the devastation of their separation is also the last time that she talks. Heart-breakingly, she is told that her cough is actually pneumonia and she is ashamed of her stomach which looks like: “five years of bad gas,” representing the very obvious neglect of her and Johnny under her mother and Reg’s care. Her life after this just gets worse and worse, being shipped out to various sets of foster parents but none whom she remembers as well as the last set, the God-fearing Maxwells who actually put the fear of God into her! They take great issue with her skin colour and she feels she has to make up for her entire culture being so full of sin and wickedness.

At school things are just as bad for her with a headmaster that takes a repulsive pleasure in punishing her often. After finding out some unbelievably horrid news concerning her brother Johnny it is no surprise that she continues her life in silence, after all what is there to be said about such an appalling life? I was surprised however by the turn the story took and the actual crime that she committed. I won’t say any more about that but it’s one of the saddest stories I’ve come across in my short stories challenge and I will probably be thinking about it for a long time to come. I’m just so glad I came across this writer, her use of language is phenomenal and she certainly paints a dramatic and spell-binding picture in a short space of time. She reeled me in with her poetic phrases and I loved the way in which corrugated iron is often referred to by the character as she compares events in her life (past and present) with something that plays a part in the happiest memory of her otherwise bleak childhood. Cannot wait for the next story in this collection – the bar has certainly been set high.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: Beachcombing by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles



4 comments on “Short Stories Challenge – Corrugated Dreaming by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

  • The synopsis for this book reminds me to the one of The Family of Pascual Duarte. It’s also about a man (not woman in this case) who’s in prison looking back at his life. It’s not really similar to this, but I thought I should mention it. Hope you like the rest!

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