Diving Belles

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Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part One

Published January 7, 2017 by bibliobeth


Its a new year and time for some more short stories. I usually do short stories in three month blocks however I’ve been struggling to keep up with this so instead of calling this post January to March I shall call it Part One and see how I get on! This is what I’ll be reading in the first half of 2017:

The Raft by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

The Butcher Of Meena Creek by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

The Wishing Tree by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Faithful Lovers by Margaret Drabble from the collection The Story: Love Loss & The Lives Of Women

Double Room by Ramsey Campbell from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page

The Adventure Of The Engineer’s Thumb by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Erase Me: Positron, Episode Three – Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

On The Banks Of Table River: (Planet Lucina, Andromeda Galaxy, AD 2319) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

The Passenger by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Fleeing Complexity by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Short Stories Challenge – Notes From The House Spirits by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Published June 11, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s Notes From The House Spirits all about?:

This is a short story from the point of view of the little guardians and protectors of one particular house which sees many people come and go over the years as they continue to look after it in their own small ways.

What did I think?:

I read Notes From The House Spirits a while back I think, before embarking on this short stories challenge, but I couldn’t remember much about it except that I very much enjoyed it and it was one of my main reasons for buying this collection as a whole so I was looking forward to re-visiting it. Once again, Lucy Wood does not disappoint with beautiful prose and a story so convincing that you could almost believe these little creatures actually exist! Ever had that feeling that you’re being watched in your own home even though it is empty? It could be the house spirits, interested in what you’re doing and checking that you’re taking care of the house properly.

We see a number of years pass by surprisingly quickly in one particular property where the house spirits have been resident as long as they can remember. In fact, they can’t quite remember how they came into being – was it when the house was built? Are they part of the wood, the bricks, the walls? They can’t quite say but their sole purpose is to look after the house itself and ensure the residents are treating it correctly. They remember times when the house has been empty and at first, they welcome the peace and tranquillity but soon start to miss familiar noises or familiar people.

The spirits, as you may imagine are a teensy bit neurotic and when a new person comes to the house, they literally wring their hands over things they do (or more precisely what they don’t do!) and although they are fairly limited in what they can do with the house, they can do small things like straighten the shower curtain so it doesn’t go mouldy, push leaves back through the letterbox and make books slip off a shelf if they don’t think the shelf has been seated correctly and is in danger of falling. Not much escapes their beady eyes but they are shocked to discover one day when the sofa is moved, a small collection of disgusting butterballs (butter dipped in sugar) that their previous tenant used to give guests when they came over to visit and their guests promptly slipped down the back of the sofa when her back was turned.

We see quite a lot of different people come and go and even a few changes made to the house like a wall being knocked down which our spirits are very upset about! I loved that we saw a particular family which were clearly there for many years, from the start of their relationship to when they have a child to when the child grows up and leaves. This all seems to happen in no time at all for the spirits and although initially they are very suspicious and declare: “We don’t like them,” to each new tenant/family, they soon develop a strange fondness for them and it becomes almost alien when the house is left empty once more then they have to get used to a whole new set of residents.

This is a beautiful little story and once again reveals the vast imagination and talent of the author, Lucy Wood. It’s a story that I’ve read a few times now just to savour it and each time I read it I seem to find something new to think about in the narrative. Each time I’ve finished it I’ve felt slightly bereft, wondering what these fictional little house spirits will make of their new residents and I believe that’s a true testament to the amazing writing.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: How I Finally Lost My Heart by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives Of Women


Short Stories Challenge 2016 – January to March

Published January 9, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Image from http://quotes.lifehack.org/quote/ali-smith/short-stories-consume-you-faster-theyre-connected/

Hooray for a new year and more short stories! This is what I’ll be reading for the first three months of 2016.

Week beginning 4th January 2016

Duet by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 11th January 2016

The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer by John Ajvide Lindqvist from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 18th January 2016

Dreams In The Witch-House by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 25th January 2016

Enough Of This Shit Already by Tony Black from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 1st February 2016

Stars Of Motown Shining Bright by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 8th February 2016

Charm For A Friend With A Lump by Helen Simpson from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Week beginning 15th February 2016

Paranoid: A Chant by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Week beginning 22nd February 2016

Still Life by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Week beginning 29th February 2016

Notes From The House Spirits by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 7th March 2016

How I Finally Lost My Heart by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives Of Women

Week beginning 14th March 2016

The Graveless Doll Of Eric Mutis by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 21st March 2016

The Adventure Of The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 28th March 2016

Choke Collar: Positron, Episode Two by Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

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

Published November 17, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s Beachcombing all about?:

Beachcombing explores the relationship between a grandmother and her grandson, the former having lived in a cave by the sea for a while now and has no plans on leaving any time soon.

What did I think?:

I think I was expecting great things from this short story purely based on the others I have read in the collection. Lucy Wood’s beautiful way with language and characters combines stories of ordinary, mundane daily life with a little bit of magic to create prose that you can’t help but admire. The stories are often steeped in Cornish folklore/legends and I’m thoroughly enjoying learning about mythological creatures or superstitions that I was previously unaware of. In Beachcombing, the other-worldly creature(s) are the buccas, a spirit that roams coastal towns and becomes something akin to a hobgoblin during storms, wreaking havoc and causing mayhem.

The two main characters in this story are Oscar and his grandmother whose home is in a cave on a beach where she moved for reasons unknown at the beginning of this tale. Oscar and his grandmother have a very special relationship which was very touching and made me smile. At times, they drive each other crazy but they clearly have a great affection for each other and are always looking out for the others welfare. One of their favourite things to do is to roam the beach looking for treasures that the sea has brought up with the waves. It is apparent that Grandma seems to be always looking for something else, something she may have lost and Oscar is always keen to show her his daily findings. She is the one who first teaches him about the buccas and we learn that on a stormy night, it is crucial to appease them by leaving a fish on the shore, something that she forgot to do one particular night. There were consequences because of her lapse that led to her immediately packing up essential items and moving into a cave on the beach, despite the protests of Oscar’s mother and father who have a place for her to stay in their own “normal,” home.

The story is divided into a number of small sections that covers both Oscar’s relationship with his grandmother, their little rituals when he comes to stay and describes the findings on the beach that have particular importance to them. All apart from one that is, which Oscar tries desperately to hide. I was under the impression at first that he was hiding his treasure simply because he wanted to keep it to himself, in the way that some young children may do. It turns out that it was a form of protection because when Grandma’s curiosity gets the better of her and she raids his hiding place, she becomes very upset and this in turn upsets Oscar. I was also unsure what to make of the ending of this tale, as with previous stories in this collection it is ambiguous but funnily enough, on a second reading of Beachcombing, I found it quite bitter-sweet and, thinking about it in retrospect, it was the perfect ending for a story like this.

It was only on a second reading of this story that I began to appreciate what a little gem it really is. Strangely enough, it was only on the second time round that I understood the incident that caused Grandma to uproot and live in the cave and once I had realised that, all the other pieces seemed to slot into place. I loved both Grandma and Oscar as characters, their relationship felt so authentic and even though they would clash sometimes, they loved each other deeply which made it a beautiful partnership to read about. This is such a clever story that once understood makes you think deeply about love and loss. For me, the icing on the cake was the introduction of the buccas, intriguing and occasionally malevolent little beings which immediately made me want to go and read up everything I could find on them! Lucy Wood has a wonderful talent for combining a bit of legend with contemporary life and her stories are all the stronger for it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: A Man And Two Women by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives of Women edited by Victoria Hislop


A bucca, also known as a knacker, knocker, bwca or tommyknocker in Welsh, Cornish and Devon folklore, the equivalent of Irish leprechauns and English/Scottish brownies.

Image from http://www.ovguide.com/knocker-9202a8c04000641f80000000005c1b67



Short Stories Challenge 2015 – October to December

Published October 2, 2015 by bibliobeth


Image from http://www.slideshare.net/ernella32/teaching-the-short-story

It’s nearly the end of the year and here’s what I’ll be reading short story wise to see out 2015!

Week beginning 5th October

Corrugated Dreaming by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Week beginning 12th October

Beachcombing by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 19th October

A Man And Two Women by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives of Women edited by Victoria Hislop

Week beginning 26th October

The New Veterans by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 2nd November

The Adventure Of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 9th November

Vuotjärvi by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

Week beginning 16th November

Bibhutibhushan Malik’s Final Storyboard by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 23rd November

The Jesus Stories by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 30th November

We Were Just Driving Around by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 7th December

The Chamois by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 14th December

Under The Pylon by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 21st December

A Mighty Horde Of Women In Very Big Hats, Advancing by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 28th December

The Mean Time by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Short Stories Challenge – The Giant’s Boneyard by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Published July 8, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Giant’s Boneyard all about?:

The Giant’s Boneyard explores the end of childhood and the onset of puberty between two friends, Gog and Sunshine as they play in a giant’s boneyard at the end of the summer holidays.

What did I think?:

Diving Belles is a collection of short stories that are inspired by Cornish folklore and each one so far has been magical in its own way. In The Giant’s Boneyard our narrator and main character Gog is possibly a reference to the Cornish giant Gogmagog “one detestable monster…of such prodigious strength that at one shake he pulled up an oak as if it had been a hazel wand.” Our Gog of this story is a teenage boy in the first flushes of love with a girl called Sunshine who he has been friends with for years, despite the fact that at times she can be quite rotten to him! At the He is also suffering with “growing pains,” and often feels his phantom body is quite a lot larger than what he actually is. He has been told by his mother that his father was in fact a giant so he’s still got quite a bit of growing to do if he wants to reach his heights!

Gog is enjoying exploring the giant’s boneyard with Sunshine and marvels at the pyramid of human skulls, the smallest one being still as big as a television and especially the gigantic ribcage which is Sunshine’s particular favourite. He desperately wants to tell her how he feels about her and open up to her about where his father may be instead it is his phantom arm that he imagines snaking around her shoulders then fumbles his words awkwardly when she asks a loaded question about whether his father is dead or not. Sunshine continues to make quite barbed remarks which makes you wonder whether she realises his feelings for her and is trying to see how far she can push him. Following this up with requests for a piggy-back throws Gog into utter confusion and he seems to instantly forgive all her little transgressions.

As with the other stories in this collection, the ending is rather ambiguous and I’m not going to ruin it for people who haven’t read it but it threw me so much that I had to immediately go back and read the story again. On a second run-through things seemed to make more sense but I still wondered if I had got the wrong end of the stick. It could reference a number of things regarding the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood or it could be something more sinister:

“Adults would visit, huddle dwarfed and shivering under the bones and not come back.”

Aside from this I did really enjoy this short story – loving Gog and loving to hate Sunshine character wise and feeling both comforted and amazed by the beauty of the author’s beautiful descriptive prose. The magical side is always a bonus for me and something I think Lucy Wood carries off with perfection, almost making you believe that giants really do exist. By the way, if anyone has read this let me know what you think about the ending!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: A Telephone Call by Dorothy Parker from the collection The Story: Love, Loss and The Lives of Women, 100 Great Stories

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

Published February 15, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s Magpies all about?:

In Magpies, our unnamed and lonely male narrator hits a magpie with his car and follows it as it leads him to the woods and a little den where he manages to feel at ease for the first time in a while.

What did I think?:

In Lucy Wood’s debut short story collection the tales have a sort of otherworldly, magical theme and Magpies was no exception. It was also one of the strangest stories I have read so far and as a result, I’m still struggling to formulate my thoughts on it.  When it begins, our male narrator is driving home across a beautiful and picturesque landscape described beautifully by the author with stand-out sentences such as:

“the trees along the road, all bent in one direction, looked like the silhouettes of fishermen leaning over water.”

As he drives along he meditates on the dreams his wife has been having, strange in that the last thing that he would talk about at night she would dream of in some way i.e. he would mention a crack in the stairs and she would dream of him walking up a staircase. Then, bizarrely the story shifts to a road-side cafe where he is waiting for Mae (his wife?), although he mentions that he has not seen her for about four years. Apparently, Herb’s cafe used to be “their” place that they would visit often, although Mae for certain, cannot imagine why that was. You get the sense that this man is incredibly lonely, perhaps has not moved on with his life following a break-up and visits Herb’s by himself on occasion, purely for the human company even if it’s just long-haul drivers passing though that he can chat to for a while and escape the monotony of his life.

He is thinking about how time has passed quicker than he would have liked when all of a sudden, he feels something hit his car. Getting out and searching around he finally sees a magpie at the side of the road, holding its wing up as if broken. The magpie appears to say something then passes under a fence and begins to slowly walk across a field towards some woods and our narrator feels a strange compulsion to follow it. For me, this part of the story felt incredibly eerie – even the way the author talks about the shuffling magpie and the brokenness of its movements sent a chill down my spine and made me feel fairly uneasy.

The tale shifts between these two points in the narrator’s life – his pursuit of the magpie and meeting Mae at the cafe where he is surprised to remember certain details of her face and her manner, as if he had forgotten. At other times, they seem to know each other inside and out, the knowledge that can only come from an intense and loving relationship. The narrator only seems to be comfortable in the story when the magpie leads him to a den between the trees filled with shiny silver remnants of his childhood, like buttons and badges that he used to collect. Throughout, I could feel the intense sadness and loneliness of the narrator which when combined with a little bit of surrealism made for an interesting read. What I do find strange about it is that even now, while re-processing the story and writing this review, I can’t tell you if I liked the story or not. Without a doubt the descriptive writing is truly captivating and I did feel that I had to finish the story regardless of the ambiguous ending, which I’m getting used to now with this author. I think it was just that damned magpie that got under my skin! (*shiver*). If anyone else has read it, I’d love to know your thoughts then maybe I can work out what I think myself.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: A Married Man’s Story by Katherine Mansfield from the collection The Story, Love, Loss & The Lives of Women 100 Great Short Stories chosen by Victoria Hislop.