Cornwall

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Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Wisht by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Published November 23, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Wisht all about?:

Wisht follows our young female protagonist as she accompanies her father on a walk through the moor one night, fearful of the legend of the Wisht Hounds.

What did I think?:

Now that I’ve read the penultimate story in this collection, I’m starting to think back on all the stories and gather my thoughts on the collection as a whole. There’s no denying that it’s a gorgeous piece of fiction, especially for a debut work and obviously, I loved that Lucy Wood used the setting of Cornwall and Cornish folklore to bring an extra mythical or otherworldly edge to her tales. As with many short story collections that I’ve read, unfortunately there are some stories that just don’t grab my attention as much as others and I’m sorry to say Wisht was one of those. There are many positive things to be taken from it which I’ll talk about later but generally, I found this story to be slightly forgettable and I think generally speaking there’s better stories that showcase the author’s talent much more effectively.

Wisht is about a young girl who seems to live alone with her father (her mother is never mentioned in the narrative which I found slightly odd). Her father tends to go out at night on long walks over the moor and although he checks she is asleep before he leaves, she is pretending and watches out of the window until she sees the light of the torch as he returns. She is incredibly protective of him and worries about the amount of weight he has lost – perhaps this is down to bereavement and the loss of his wife? Who knows? We are never told. One evening however, he wakes his daughter up and asks her to accompany him on his nightly walk where they have a tender moment right at the very end of the narrative.

That’s it, basically. Nothing much happens, even on the walk. Oh, her father falls over once and tells his daughter to be careful lest she fall over herself. Also she keeps hearing howling which she is certain is the legendary Wisht Hounds that roam the moors at night, looking for human subjects to devour. However, we don’t really get much more about the Wisht Hounds apart from that which was a bit of a shame as I found them to be quite an interesting part of the story. I did love the relationship between father and daughter, even finding myself a bit envious of the unconditional love they obviously have for each other and I adored how protective she was of her father, worrying for him as he went into the Hounds territory but savvy enough to not let him see how concerned she was about him. Personally, this was just a “meh” story for me. The writing is undeniably beautiful, like all of Lucy Wood’s writing in this collection and, as I mentioned, I thought the Wisht Hounds mystery was quite exciting but sadly never developed as fully as I would have hoped. Nevertheless, I am still looking forward to the final story in this collection as I do enjoy the way the author uses stunning prose and magical folklore to tell a contemporary story.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: The Man From Mars by Margaret Atwood from the collection The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives Of Women.

 

Jamaica Inn – Daphne du Maurier

Published April 8, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

On a bitter November evening, young Mary Yellan journeys across the rainswept moors to Jamaica Inn in honour of her mother’s dying request. When she arrives, the warning of the coachman begins to echo in her memory, for her aunt Patience cowers before hulking Uncle Joss Merlyn. Terrified of the inn’s brooding power, Mary gradually finds herself ensnared in the dark schemes being enacted behind its crumbling walls — and tempted to love a man she dares not trust.

What did I think?:

As some of you may already be aware, I am a huge Daphne du Maurier fan. I haven’t read too much of her work yet, I’m almost finished her short story collection, The Breaking Point which I’ve covered in my Short Stories Challenge and I’ve read probably her most famous work, Rebecca and loved it, but this is only the second of her novels that I’ve had the pleasure to discover. And what a tale it is! Du Maurier takes us back to her beloved Cornwall with glorious descriptions of Jamaica Inn, a place that still stands today on the moors between Bodwin and Launceston and dates back to 1750, on an old coaching route (now the A30) and four miles walk from Brown Willy, the highest hill in Cornwall. On a holiday to Cornwall last year, I had the opportunity to visit the famous working hotel and pub (which is also rumoured to be haunted) and the beauty of both the interior and the surroundings outside took my breath away.

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Jamaica Inn, Cornwall

Image from http://www.times.co.uk

But back to the book – our main character is Mary Yellan whom when our story begins, has had a wonderful life managing a small farm with her mother. Unfortunately, her mother becomes very ill and her dying wish is that Mary should go and live with her sister, Mary’s Aunt Patience and her husband at Jamaica Inn as it wasn’t “proper” in the early 19th century for young women to be on their own. Mary has fond memories of her Aunt Patience who she remembers as an incredibly happy and soft-hearted woman with a lust for life. When Mary arrives at Jamaica Inn on a cold wintry evening (which always makes things look a bit bleaker, of course!) the woman she meets is not the fun-loving Aunt she remembers. Aunt Patience’s husband, Joss Merlyn, the landlord of the inn is a brash, intimidating bully of a man who treats everyone most of all his long-suffering wife with disrespect and contempt.

Aunt Patience has changed into a cowed, fearful woman who jumps at the slightest noise and is desperate to keep the peace at whatever cost to herself. For there are strange and terrible things going on at Jamaica Inn. No coaches seem to stop there and on certain nights, Mary and her Aunt are ordered to keep to their rooms, disregard any odd noises that they might hear (and yes, there are many) and no matter what, keep their mouths shut:

“You must never question me, nor him, nor anyone, for if you came to guess but half of what I know, your hair would go grey, Mary, as mine has done, and you would tremble in your speech and weep by night, and all that lovely careless youth of yours would die, Mary, as mine has died.”

Mary becomes unwillingly involved in one of these horrific events and is uncertain where to turn to for help, desperate to get away but realising that her duties compel her to stay and protect her Aunt. Furthermore, if she did ask for help – is there anyone that she can trust? There is Jem Merlyn, her uncle’s brother whom she instantly feels a connection with but who has a murky past of his own, the albino vicar Francis Davey who is kind to her when she has no where else to turn and Squire Bassat and his wife who also appear to have a hidden agenda.

Could there be a happy ending? It seems unlikely but there’s certainly plenty of gothic mystery, intrigue, murder and a bundle of thrills that will keep you reading until the wee hours. Once again, Daphne du Maurier surprised and delighted me with a strong plot-line, more than a few shady characters and such vivid, beautiful descriptions of the landscape of Cornwall that I was bowled over on more than a few occasions. Seeing the place itself was the cherry on the icing on the cake and I made sure that I was reading the book at the time that I visited which made the reading experience even more special. I’ll always have a vivid memory of sitting outside Jamaica Inn in the sunshine, the book open in my hands, occasionally glancing up across the moor just imaging what it could have been like two hundred years ago. My only criticism is… what on earth am I going to read of hers next? There’s so much to choose from! *rubs hands in glee*

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Interior of Jamaica Inn, Cornwall

Image from http://www.seeksghosts.blogspot.co.uk

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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