So if my calculations are correct, that makes 123 British books/short stories read this year which has smashed last year’s record of 72 which I’m very pleased about. Highlights of this year have to be The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry which just captivated me, A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale which completely stole my heart and I still think about today and A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys, a fantastic surprise that I didn’t anticipate enjoying as much as I did. I’ve also enjoyed catching up on Emma Carroll’s back catalogue (one of my targets for the year) and read some beautiful short stories, including one very recently by Rosy Thornton. I’m very excited for some more British books in 2018 – bring it on!
High House follows our female narrator who becomes particularly friendly with a man she cleans for. He ends up teaching her many things about the world, especially the dangers of climate change.
What did I think?:
This is the second story in Rosy Thornton’s short story collection, Sandlands. When I first started it, I have to admit I immediately thought: “Oh, this isn’t going to be as good as the first story, The White Doe.” However, by the end I was completely charmed by the entire narrative and especially its two main protagonists. It’s a beautiful little tale that feels starkly poignant, especially with the natural disasters that have been plaguing our world in the past few years or so, and with the ever looming threat of climate change having the potential to disrupt our lives and our children’s lives forever.
It’s hard to describe what this story is about but I’ll do my best. Set in the small village of Blaxhall in Suffolk, it begins with our unnamed female narrator who is describing the environment, the tranquillity of her surroundings and her obvious love for where she is living. She works as a cleaner/housekeeper for various residences around the village, but treasures the time she spends with a Mr Napish who lives in High House, a property high above the village and who treats our narrator with courtesy, consideration and respect, being one of the very few who will deign to make a cup of tea for her as she works (ah, a wonderful man indeed!). He talks to her about many things, especially climate change and possesses a map of how the country might look if the sea levels continue to rise in the manner the scientists are suspecting. Unfortunately, the village then suffers its own spate of floods and our narrator and Mr Napish gallantly step in to try and save some of the animal population in some of the sweetest scenes I’ve had the pleasure to read.
One of the things that most attracted me to Sandlands as a short story collection was the promise of stories about animals. I have been delighted to discover this in both stories so far but was surprised to discover the richness and beauty of Rosy Thornton’s story-telling as an additional bonus. She describes the British landscape so eloquently you can almost visualise the area she is talking about and smell those wonderful, natural scents. This story was particularly beautiful as it felt so timely with the recent floods, earthquakes, tsunami’s etc, many attributed to climate change that have taken/ruined many lives irrevocably. It certainly made me stop to think and worry slightly about what might happen in our future. On a happier note, the ending, which I definitely shall not spoil, came as a huge surprise as we get a slight hint about some of the reasons why Mr Napish may be doing what he’s doing (if I’ve interpreted it correctly!) and it gave me such a difference of feelings – terror and the warm fuzzies, an interesting mixture!
Hello everyone and welcome to the fifth part of my Short Stories Challenge in 2017. My fourth part was quite like the third, up and down. I had a huge disappointment with a short story by Daphne du Maurier which was Monte Verità but I also got some lovely surprises in the form of The House On The Hill by Kate Mosse and The Man In The Ditch by Lisa Tuttle. Here’s what I’ll be reading in the next few months:
The White Doe is the story of Fran who has recently lost her mother and has been seeing a rare white doe in the countryside near to her home.
What did I think?:
First of all, a huge thank you to the author Rosy Thornton for sending me a copy of her first short story collection, Sandlands in exchange for an honest review. On reading the synopsis, which promises magic entwined with the beauty of nature I was certainly sold and thought it would be a great addition to my Short Stories Challenge. The first story is The White Doe and even though my expectations were slightly raised (due to the promise of animals I have to say, I’m a sucker for anything involving them!) I wasn’t disappointed. It was written beautifully and the surrounding environment of Suffolk was incorporated so expertly that the narrative just seemed to flow like water.
Our main character in the story is Fran who lost her mother whom she was incredibly close to, six months ago. She hasn’t really had a good opportunity to grieve for her loss and finds looking through any of her mother’s belongings terribly difficult so is pushing it to one side for now. It is obvious her mother is continually present in her thoughts – she mentions her constantly in the story and it is obvious her feelings about her death are still very raw. Recently however, she has been seeing a white doe amongst a group of other deer and wondering what it can possibly mean.
Fran is aware of an old folk tale about a white doe (who was actually a woman that transformed into the animal) and how it ended very badly when her brother mistakenly killed her whilst out hunting, believing her to be in fact a doe and not his sister. This story is also connected with the horrific migraines that Fran has been suffering. She has always had a bit of a predisposition for headaches that were normally soothed for her as a child by her mother but since her mother’s death they appear to be getting worse. The visitation of the deer, Fran’s memories of her mother and her migraines are all connected and all assist Fran in confronting her grief when the time is right.
I actually read this story two times so that I could fully appreciate it. The descriptive nature of Rosy Thornton’s writing is as magical as the folk tale/legends that she recounts in the narrative and whilst reading, I felt like I was immersed in another world that I didn’t want to leave. Being British, I also loved the connection to the Suffolk countryside and as an animal nut, the references to the deer in their appearance and their behaviour. This isn’t a story just about a special deer however, it’s got so many different levels, namely regarding grief and how it is experienced and effectively managed and the importance of motherhood. Personally, I thought it was a stunning short story and am eagerly anticipating the rest of the collection.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: The Light Through The Window by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky.
Image from https://www.standoutbooks.com/how-publish-short-story/
Hello everyone and welcome to Part Three of my Short Stories Challenge this year. Part Two was again, very interesting with some really memorable stories read, namely The Birds by Daphne du Maurier and Gallowberries by Angela Slatter which were both fantastic and HIGHLY recommended. Here’s to finding some more great short stories and authors in Part Three!