magical realism

All posts tagged magical realism

Etta And Otto and Russell And James – Emma Hooper

Published March 11, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

I’ve gone. I’ve never seen the water, so I’ve gone there. I will try to remember to come back.

Etta’s greatest unfulfilled wish, living in the rolling farmland of Saskatchewan, is to see the sea. And so, at the age of eighty-two she gets up very early one morning, takes a rifle, some chocolate, and her best boots, and begins walking the 2,000 miles to water.

Meanwhile her husband Otto waits patiently at home, left only with his memories. Their neighbour Russell remembers too, but differently – and he still loves Etta as much as he did more than fifty years ago, before she married Otto.

What did I think?:

There were quite a few things that immediately drew me to Emma Hooper’s debut novel. First of all, the lovely cover with the cheeky little animal on the front (which I now know to be a coyote). Secondly, the title – I mean, four names in a title, what’s that all about? I simply had to find out! Finally, there had been a lot of comparisons of this book to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce which happens to be one of my all time favourite novels. I normally don’t like it when books are compared to others but I loved Harold Fry so much I needed to give Etta & Co a chance to stand as a story on its own merits.

So where this book is similar to Harold Fry is that it involves an adult in their eighties undergoing a long walk to get to a destination, meeting different people and well-wishers along the way. In this novel, our protagonist is Etta, 83 and slowly losing her memory. She wakes up one day and decides to walk to the ocean as she has never seen it, leaving her husband Otto a note explaining this and that she would “try to remember to come back.” The story follows Etta’s journey but is in no way chronological and dips back into the past and present as memories surface for Etta during her journey. We learn about her life as a teacher when she first met Otto. We also learn about Otto’s early life, part of a family fifteen-strong with the addition of his best friend (and current neighbour) Russell who becomes the honorary sixteenth member.

Most of Etta and Otto’s relationship is told in the form of letters, particularly when Otto has to go away to fight in World War II. Russell is Etta’s main support system when Otto is gone, unable to join up himself because of a childhood accident that left him with a lame leg. Russell is also deeply in love with Etta and when he hears about her pilgrimage later in life, immediately sets out to find her. Otto, her husband, stays at home making paper mache animals for Etta’s return and learning to bake from the recipes Etta has left him, deliberately so he can manage without her. Meanwhile on her journey, Etta meets many well-wishers and makes new friends, particularly a wily talking coyote called James who has quite the gift of the gab but encourages Etta through harder times on the road. The ending is somewhat bitter-sweet and very much left open to the readers own interpretation – it’s something I was slightly surprised by but thoroughly enjoyed at the same time.

I guess if you’ve read Harold Fry before you can see the similarities between them but I think this novel deserves to be talked about as a story all of its own. There are many differences between the stories also, particularly the magical realism part with the talking coyote, James, the dementia that Etta is sliding into and the hardships that Etta and Otto have suffered as a couple. I really fell in love with Etta as a character and the pure whimsical nature of this book (yes a talking coyote was always going to be a bonus for me, even if he was just in Etta’s mind?). It was also nice to hear from the spouse left behind, in this case Otto whose little paper mache animals and determination to learn to cook warmed the cockles of my heart. Initially, I was a bit wary of the ending of this novel and I have to admit, slightly disappointed but on closer reflection, I realise it was a perfect way for the reader to make up their own mind as to what happens. I’ll certainly be reading anything else Emma Hooper releases, this is one debut author with a bucket load of talent and beautiful writing to boot.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Mini Pin-It Reviews #4 – Four Books That Fall Into My “Random” Category

Published November 5, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post on my blog, where I try and catch up on my immense backlog of reviews by posting a quick review on a post it note. Today’s post is going to focus on a few books that I’ve placed in a random category, as I couldn’t really pigeon-hole them all into one genre. Hope you enjoy!

1.) – In The Kingdom Of Men by Kim Barnes

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What’s it all about?:

1967. Gin Mitchell knows a better life awaits her when she marries hometown hero Mason McPhee. Raised in a two-room shack by her Oklahoma grandfather, a strict Methodist minister, Gin never believed that someone like Mason, a handsome college boy, the pride of Shawnee, would look her way. And nothing can prepare her for the world she and Mason step into when he takes a job with the Arabian American Oil company in Saudi Arabia. In the gated compound of Abqaiq, Gin and Mason are given a home with marble floors, a houseboy to cook their meals, and a gardener to tend the sandy patch out back. Even among the veiled women and strict laws of shariah, Gin’s life has become the stuff of fairy tales. She buys her first swimsuit, she pierces her ears, and Mason gives her a glittering diamond ring. But when a young Bedouin woman is found dead, washed up on the shores of the Persian Gulf, Gin’s world closes in around her, and the one person she trusts is nowhere to be found.
Set against the gorgeously etched landscape of a country on the cusp of enormous change, In the Kingdom of Men abounds with sandstorms and locust swarms, shrimp peddlers, pearl divers, and Bedouin caravans—a luminous portrait of life in the desert. Award-winning author Kim Barnes weaves a mesmerizing, richly imagined tale of Americans out of their depth in Saudi Arabia, a marriage in peril, and one woman’s quest for the truth, no matter what it might cost her.

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Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

2.) – Among Others by Jo Walton

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What’s it all about?:

Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.

Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled–and her twin sister dead.

Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off…

Combining elements of autobiography with flights of imagination in the manner of novels like Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude, this is potentially a breakout book for an author whose genius has already been hailed by peers like Kelly Link, Sarah Weinman, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

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Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

3.) – Chinese Whispers by Ben Chu

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What’s it all about?:

We think we know China. The world’s most venerable and self-confident civilisation, home to the largest unified race of people on the planet, China manufactures the objects that fill our lives. We see a country peopled by docile and determined factory workers, domineering ‘Tiger Mothers’ obsessed with education and achievement, and a society that has put the accumulation of wealth above political freedom. Above all, we see a superpower on the rise, destined to overtake the West and to dominate the 21st century. But how accurate is this picture? What if, as Ben Chu argues, we are all engaged in a grand game of Chinese Whispers, in which the facts have become more and more distorted in the telling? We have been getting China and the Chinese wrong for centuries. From the Enlightenment philosophes, enraptured by what they imagined to be a kingdom of reason, to the Victorians who derided the ‘flowery empire’, outsiders have long projected their own dreams and nightmares onto this vast country. With China’s economic resurgence today, many have fallen once more under the spell of this glittering new global hegemon, while others foretell terrible danger in China’s return to the centre of the world stage. CHINESE WHISPERS tugs aside this age-old curtain of distortion in a powerful counterblast to modern assumptions about China. By examining the central myths, or ‘whispers’, that have come to dominate our view of China, Ben Chu forces us to question everything we thought we knew about world’s most populous nation. The result is a surprising, penetrating insight into modern China.

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Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

4.) – Tampa by Alissa Nutting

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What’s it all about?:

Celeste Price is an eighth-grade English teacher in suburban Tampa. She’s undeniably attractive. She drives a red Corvette with tinted windows. Her husband, Ford, is rich, square-jawed, and devoted to her.

But Celeste’s devotion lies elsewhere. She has a singular sexual obsession—fourteen-year-old boys. Celeste pursues her craving with sociopathic meticulousness and forethought; her sole purpose in becoming a teacher is to fulfill her passion and provide her access to her compulsion. As the novel opens, fall semester at Jefferson Jr. High is beginning.

In mere weeks, Celeste has chosen and lured the lusciously naive Jack Patrick into her web. Jack is enthralled and in awe of his teacher, and, most important, willing to accept Celeste’s terms for a secret relationship—car rides after school; rendezvous at Jack’s house while his single father works late; body-slamming encounters in Celeste’s empty classroom between periods.

Ever mindful of the danger—the perpetual risk of exposure, Jack’s father’s own attraction to her, and the ticking clock as Jack leaves innocent boyhood behind—the hyperbolically insatiable Celeste bypasses each hurdle with swift thinking and shameless determination, even when the solutions involve greater misdeeds than the affair itself. In slaking her sexual thirst, Celeste Price is remorseless and deviously free of hesitation, a monstress driven by pure motivation. She deceives everyone, and cares nothing for anyone or anything but her own pleasure.

With crackling, rampantly unadulterated prose, Tampa is a grand, uncompromising, seriocomic examination of want and a scorching literary debut.

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Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP SOON ON MY MINI PIN-IT REVIEWS – Four YA novels.

1Q84: Book Three (1Q84 #3) – Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel (Translator)

Published September 19, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Book Two of 1Q84 ended with Aomame standing on the Metropolitan Expressway with a gun between her lips.

She knows she is being hunted, and that she has put herself in terrible danger in order to save the man she loves.

But things are moving forward, and Aomame does not yet know that she and Tengo are more closely bound than ever.

Tengo is searching for Aomame, and he must find her before this world’s rules loosen up too much.

He must find her before someone else does.

What did I think?:

For my review of the first two books in the series, please click HERE.

Ah, Haruki Murakami – how I do love thee! This is the third (and final?) book in the 1Q84 trilogy by the Japanese author and it’s had a mixed bag of reviews, especially on GoodReads. As a devoted Murakami fan, my thoughts fall on the more positive, gushing variety but I have to admit, I could understand some of the comments made against it. If you’re new to Murakami, this probably isn’t the best book to begin with, I’d probably suggest Norwegian Wood or The Wind Up Bird Chronicle as he does have a bit of a tendency to be slightly “out there,” and perhaps it might be difficult to see his appeal.

For someone who totally gets him, the world of 1Q84 is magical, beautiful, occasionally dark and disturbing and intensely dream-like. Personally, I didn’t feel that the third book lived up to the brilliance of the first two but it was still a solid end to a wonderful creation that I honestly didn’t want to leave. The two main characters, Tengo and Aomame first met each other in childhood but when Aomame enters a strange new world where there are two moons, little people, and a crazy cult they begin to form a connection with each other again. Before long, it is obvious that the two are meant to be together but in this new, dangerous world coming together may also be their undoing.

We leave Aomame at the end of the second book in a rather precarious position with certainly more questions and wonderment for the reader than answers. However, if you’re about to read 1Q84 Book Three hoping for answers to all the mysteries, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Part of the Murakami style is to leave the reader hanging just a little bit, leaving us to make our own conclusions about what has been going on. Yes, this can be slightly frustrating at points and some people may hate it purely because of this but personally, I find it quite refreshing and enjoy making my own mind up about things rather than having things wrapped up for me in a perfect little package.

Every time I read Murakami, I become entranced by the world he leads us in to. It’s true, the action can be a bit muted at times, and at points not much really goes on. He has a gift however for pulling you into the heads of very intriguing characters so that you feel you know them inside out whilst at the same time, not really at all. It’s like being in a giant soap bubble that you don’t ever want to pop and with Murakami, I never want to return to reality.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Banned Books 2016 – AUGUST READ – Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

Published August 29, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima enters his life. She is a curandera, one who heals with herbs and magic. ‘We cannot let her live her last days in loneliness,’ says Antonio’s mother. ‘It is not the way of our people,’ agrees his father. And so Ultima comes to live with Antonio’s family in New Mexico. Soon Tony will journey to the threshold of manhood. Always, Ultima watches over him. She graces him with the courage to face childhood bigotry, diabolical possession, the moral collapse of his brother, and too many violent deaths. Under her wise guidance, Tony will probe the family ties that bind him, and he will find in himself the magical secrets of the pagan past—a mythic legacy equally as palpable as the Catholicism of Latin America in which he has been schooled. At each turn in his life there is Ultima who will nurture the birth of his soul.

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Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to our eighth banned book of 2016! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of 2016…

SEPTEMBER – Bone- Jeff Smith

OCTOBER – The Glass Castle- Jeanette Walls

NOVEMBER- Gossip Girl- Cecily Von Ziegesar

DECEMBER – My Sister’s Keeper- Jodi Picoult

But back to this month….

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

First published: 1972

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2013 (source)

Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: Bless Me, Ultima is one of our older releases on our banned books list this year and, as a result, I can see why certain things in the book may be challenged due to the change in attitudes compared to more modern times (this is not to say I necessarily agree with the challenges of course!). This book has a lot of references to witchcraft – the “black witch” kind that involves the devil not the nice, nature-loving “white witch” kind and I know there are a lot of people out there who do not want their children exposed to that kind of thing. If we compare it to nowadays, this is the same kind of people that don’t want books like Roald Dahl’s “The Witches,” or J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter,” available in schools. I don’t agree with their viewpoints as I think curiosity in children should be encouraged but I understand their right to a difference in opinion.

CHRISSI: Hm. I can understand why parents wouldn’t want their children to read this book as it does heavily deal with witchcraft and when published there would be quite an uproar about the subject matter of this book. I can understand why there would be uproar over it, especially with certain religions. So yes, I understand why it was challenged but I wouldn’t say that I necessarily agree with it.

How about now?

BETH: Nowadays, I think it’s even more important for children to have access to a wide variety of information about different practices and opinions to their own or their parents, even if it is difficult or somewhat controversial – within reason, of course depending on the age of the child. In the time of the internet where EVERYTHING is available, I think if children are curious enough, banning or refusing access to the book isn’t going to help. If they are determined enough, they are going to get their hands on it anyway and sometimes I believe refusing something might actually encourage children to be more rebellious and seek it out more!

CHRISSI:  I honestly don’t think that this book would be as problematic now as it was when it was first released. This is mainly due to the amount of ‘popular’ wizardry/witchy books out there right now. It seems much more acceptable subject to be featured in literature. I know some parents still have problems with witchcraft books (I wasn’t allowed to read The Witches by Roald Dahl to my class of 6-7 year olds last year, as one child’s parent was a devout Christian) but I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as it used to be. I think putting a banned label on something can make children more curious to seek it out themselves.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Unfortunately, I really didn’t get on with this book. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have any problem with the content and I normally love a good bit of magical realism but something just didn’t sit right with me. I couldn’t get into the plot, the characters or the writing flow and it all seemed a bit too airy-fairy. Antonio and Ultima were decent enough characters and the things that Antonio has to witness and go through are much harder than your general coming of age story but I just found myself a bit bored and disappointed throughout, despite the difference in culture which I would normally love.

CHRISSI: I really didn’t like this book. Despite it having a lot going on from witchcraft, murder and revenge, I found myself to be incredibly bored throughout and I ended up skim-reading quite a bit which is a shame. This book just did not grab me like I wanted it to. I also don’t think the story is very relevant to today’s readers. Hmm. A real disappointment.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably not.
CHRISSI: It’s not for me!

BETH’S personal star rating (out of 5):

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Join us again on the last Monday of September when we will be discussing Bone by Jeff Smith.

Author Interview – Carolyn Waugh on her debut novella The Oasis Of Time

Published August 16, 2016 by bibliobeth

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AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY – CAROLYN WAUGH

Carolyn has worked in a laboratory for almost forty years now but in her spare time for pleasure and to de-stress she likes to read (a lot!), mostly fantasy and romance novels. Then a few years ago she started to jot down some notes which then turned into stories. Friends were interested and wanted to read them and when they had, they told her she should try and get them published. Carolyn tried a few publishers and unfortunately was rejected so gave up for a couple of years when she tried again and was accepted by an American publisher. She hopes that people who read the story enjoy it as much as she enjoyed writing it.

Click on the book to get to the link to Good Reads!

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For my review of The Oasis Of Time, please click the link HERE.

INTERVIEW WITH CAROLYN WAUGH

I’d like to welcome Carolyn to bibliobeth today and thank her very much for her time in giving this interview.

1.) Have you always been a big reader and what’s the earliest memory you have regarding something to do with reading?

Yes, I’ve always been a large reader, usually reading up to five books a week! My earliest memory is my mother teaching me how to read, I must have been about four years old so I could read before I went to school which I found very useful.

2.) What was your favourite book to read as a child or teenager?

Fiction mainly, because it was something I found you didn’t have to concentrate too hard on but I do like Alistair MacLean as well and people like that – anything with a bit of murder and intrigue in!

3.) If you had to live on a desert island for six months what three books would you take with you?

Does a series of books count as one?! (bibliobeth: Yes, I think it could!) Okay, I would take the Harry Potter series, probably the series I’m reading at the moment by Sherrilyn Kenyon which is a group of books of all different types (I’m reading Dark Bites at the moment) so you don’t get bogged down into one type of book and lastly, War And Peace – I can be quite eclectic in my tastes!

4.) The Oasis Of Time is your first published novella with Amazon. Have you any plans to write a full novel or do you prefer to write short stories/novellas?

I like writing short stories but I would like to try, maybe in the future, my hand at a novel but I would like to see how the short stories take on first and see if they can sell. I know I’ve given them to several friends and they seem to enjoy reading them which is good. The problem is trying to get them published as it seems to cost so much unless you’re a published/known author as people aren’t willing to take that risk on you.

5.) Jay and Lilly don’t have the easiest start to their relationship for one reason or another, do you think they change as people through what they both experience?

I think they do because they don’t have certain emotions until they both meet. This brings out both the best and the worst in them and also brings something entirely new to the relationship, something different.

6.) I love the magical quality present in The Oasis Of Time. Is magic a big part of your work?

I think everyone needs a little bit of magic or paranormal to get them out of this world at the moment because there is such death and destruction, everyone needs a bit of light-heartedness and fantasy to take them away and take their mind off it a bit.

7.) Is there a happy ending for Jay and Lilly and might we see them again in a future story?

There is a happy ending and you never know, you might do! I might get the idea of bringing them back for a “part two.”

8.) Are you working on anything at the moment and can you tell us a little bit about it?

Yes I am and it’s a ghost story…. you’ll have to read it when it’s finished!

 

 

Once again, a HUGE thank you to Carolyn Waugh for giving up her time to do this interview and for her wonderful answers to my probing questions! The Oasis of Time was published in e-book format on March 10th 2015 by M-Y Books Ltd and is available to buy now.

The Oasis Of Time – Carolyn Waugh

Published August 15, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Jay was a prince and he had the dark hair and dark smouldering looks of a sheikh of the desert. He was like the princes that you read about in the female romance novels that have a picture on the cover.
His personal assistant Lilly,would be first one in to work as always, she was there when he came in and invariably there when he left always just finishing up for the night. She intrigued him in the physical sense, he sometimes dreamed of her in his bed, making love to her. Her mouth was a wonder to behold and sometimes in their meetings if he was not careful he would lose track of their conversation.
Lilly on and off when working for him had saved his butt so to speak quite a few times. Lilly had been working for him for a while now and she loved every day.
Hiding the truth about her past and from where she came from and of what she could do, was getting harder and harder as she feared that she was falling in love with him and that was something she must not do. Ever. She must never do that as her genie status would vanish and she would become human.

(synopsis from Amazon)

What did I think?:

Full disclosure here – I am not usually a fan of so-called “romantic” fiction or erotica (although I do love a bit of fantasy) but Carolyn is a good friend of mine and absolutely loves to write so when she heard I was a blogger she asked if I would read her novella, The Oasis Of Time and let her know what I think. First of all, it’s clear Carolyn has an amazing imagination and reading fantasy/romance/paranormal fiction on a regular basis has given her an excellent background to writing a story of her own.

Our male lead is Jay, a strapping young man who happens to be a prince no less, who works very hard in his business managed by himself and his father the King but has been trying to hide his developing feelings for his assistant, Lilly, unsure if she reciprocates his feelings and afraid of losing her if she doesn’t. Luckily, Lilly does feel the same way but that’s not the real issue standing in their way. The thing is, Lilly knows the family much better than Jay can understand or appreciate as she is a genie who has been assisting the family for many years after she was captured close to the oasis where she lived.

The major reason why Lilly will try to stop herself falling in love with Jay is that if she enters into a relationship with her, her magical powers and status as a genie will vanish and she will become human forever. The future for Jay and Lilly is very unsure and potentially life-changing for both of them – will it work out for them in the end? Also, will Jay ever be able to accept the special properties behind the woman he loves?

One of my favourite things about this novella was the magical qualities in the story itself. I loved Lilly and Jay as characters and the fact that Lilly was a genie just brought an extra something to the narrative as a whole. I completely bought into their relationship and enjoyed reading about their struggles as they both wonder if they can be together as a couple. I’m hoping there will be many more stories to come from Carolyn Waugh as she has a clear passion for what she does and as I mentioned earlier, a huge imagination to back it up. Hopefully, some fantastic editor will see the potential in her work and snap her up, bringing her work to a wider population.

Carolyn’s first published novella is available to buy on Amazon for the bargain prize of 99 pence and 99 cents in America:

Amazon UK Link

Amazon US Link

Come back tomorrow when I’ll be interviewing Carolyn Waugh here on my blog!

Would I recommend it?:

For fans of the genre – yes!

Star rating (out of 5):

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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):

four-stars_0

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

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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