Lights In Other Peoples Houses

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Short Stories Challenge – Lights In Other People’s Houses by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Published September 8, 2014 by bibliobeth

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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):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Child of Light by Randy Taguchi from the collection Fujisan

Challenge: Short Stories July to September

Published July 7, 2014 by bibliobeth

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I’ve really been enjoying my Short Stories Challenge so far, if you want to see what I’ve been reading so far, search for Short Stories Challenge on my main page and you should get a few (ahem!) entries. And here’s my batch of short stories for the next three months!

 Week beginning 7th July

The Colour Out Of Space by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 14th July

The Blood Pearl by Barry Maitland from the collection The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 21st July

The Isabel Fish by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 28th July

The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Week beginning 4th August

Cain Rose Up by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Week beginning 11th August

Peep Show by Nathan Englander from the collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

Week beginning 18th August

Lights In Other Peoples Houses by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 25th August

Child of Light by Randy Taguchi from the collection Fujisan

Week beginning 1st September

Proving Up by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 8th September

The Boscombe Valley Mystery by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 15th September

The Agency by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

Week beginning 22nd September

I Am An Executioner by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner

Week beginning 29th September

A Day In The Life Of Half Of Rumpelstiltskin by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky