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Diving Belles

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  911 ratings  ·  180 reviews
In the tradition of Angela Carter, this luminous, spellbinding debut reinvents the stuff of myth.

Straying husbands lured into the sea by mermaids can be fetched back, for a fee. Trees can make wishes come true. Houses creak and keep a fretful watch on their inhabitants, straightening shower curtains and worrying about frayed carpets. A mother, who seems alone a
ebook, First Mariner Books Edition, 161 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2012)
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Average rating 3.55  · 
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 ·  911 ratings  ·  180 reviews

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Diving Belles is a gorgeously written and richly imagined collection of what are too abrupt and too fleeting to qualify as stories. Each of the twelve accounts capture a moment of magic in an otherwise mundane life - a woman going about her day even as she agonizingly turns to stone, a mother-daughter duo who stumble upon a tree that makes wishes come true, a melancholy ghost who takes up residence in a young couple's home and leaves shells and sand in his wake - yet each is a phantom story, like a re
Fiona MacDonald
Strange, ethereal, creepy, odd, surreal, magical. These are a few words I would use to describe 'Diving Belles.' One of those books that I finish then sit and ponder on for a long while. Everything in this book, each story, is completely normal, completely everyday, whilst at the same time it is sublimely different. I can't really describe the stories, because you really have to read them to understand their magic.
Aug 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: may-2018
I first read Lucy Wood's debut short story collection, Diving Belles a couple of years ago, and very much enjoyed it. Whilst recently tidying up my bookcase, I came across my lovely hardback copy, and decided to reread it. Jon McGregor writes that Wood's stories 'are brilliantly uncanny: not because of the ghosts and giants and talking birds which haunt their margins, but because of what those unsettling presences mean for the very human characters at their centre.' Ali Shaw calls these 'stories from ...more
A gorgeously written but sadly unfulfilling collection of what I would call scenes, rather than stories. Lucy Wood's debut combines traditional Cornish folklore with the mundane reality of the everyday: her characters are often lonely, uncertain, leading fragmented and unsatisfying lives, and into these almost painfully realistic depictions the author weaves elements of the strange, the fantastic and the magical. There's a giant's boneyard, people turning to stone and witches who can transform i ...more
Jan 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Often the books you love are the most difficult to write about.

How do you capture just what makes them so very, very magical?

Diving Belles is one of those books.

It hold twelve short stories.

Contemporary stories that are somehow timeless. Because they are suffused with the spirit of Cornwall, the thing that I can’t capture in words that makes the place where I was born so very, very magical.

Lucy Wood so clearly understands what it is about the sea, what it is is
Dov Zeller
This is a book of magical or fabular realism. What is most beautiful and intriguing about the stories is not the mythical creatures, but the descriptions of the mundane: relationships to self and other; homes (that memories live in); natural landscapes; bodies of water. The magical stuff enhances the intensity of the mundane, and particularly the bleakness and sharpness of memory, love, loss, feelings of existential lostness. Some excerpts to illustrate at the end of the review.

The writing is v
Lucy Wood's debut collection contains a few truly magical short stories, and is adorned with one of the more beautiful covers I have seen recently - soft, gentle colors, golden lettering, the yellow lantern and blue mermaid with a shell among the rocking waves circled by golden birds. Call me vain, but I do pay attention to cover art. And who could resist this one?

Set in Lucy's native Cornwall, along its coast and among its many moors and forest, the stories contrast traditional Corn
Jan 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
I decided that 2016 would be the year that I read more fiction.
I'm normally engrossed in the Tudor period, or Victorian London, or someone's memoirs or travels, and fiction over the last few years has very much taken a back seat. But I am aware that I might well be missing out.
So, I decided to start with a short story collection as a way of easing me in. I loved the sound of Diving Belles and it proved an excellent choice.
There's a real mixture of everyday life mixed up with magic a
Katie Lumsden
May 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-stars
A beautiful rich lovely short story collection - featuring a nice balance of magical realism and the ordinary relationships of everyday life.
Jen Campbell
3.5 :) Will chat about it in my next wrap up video.
I am far from Diving Belles's ideal reader - neither short stories, nor magical realism are really to my taste. Bearing that in mind, my rating comes with a caveat: generally I base my rating on a mixture of my enjoyment in the read, how deftly I thought it was written, how I think others will like it, how powerful it was, how much it made me think... Here I am rating on skill. I didn't take much pleasure in reading Diving Belles. Indeed, in several places I took displeasure in it (esp. the story Magpie). But I've cho ...more
Mar 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book, almost entirely because of how beautiful its presentation is. The illustration on the cover, the script of the title and most of all the faded image of a lantern on the spine. The colours of the cover drew me straight to it and then I couldn't put it back on the shelf. Is that good book cover marketing or what! Eventually I opened it and read the blurb on the inside of the cover and it sounded interesting - cornish coastal mythology etc and so I treated myself.

Stephen Wall
May 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading Lucy Wood's Diving Belles is like having your own 'lucky bag' of individually sculpted surprises, each one a delight and a revelation in its own right. The writing is composed and measured, but also has a strange sense of cool detachment that imbues the text with a faint other-worldly tinge. I would have like to see some of the stories expanded however, as they felt far too short.
These stories are lovely little things, and very beautifully written. But they're so unsatisfying because they don't seem to end, they just stop. This was actually interesting for the first few, but when you can predict the vague way all the stories will end, the magical effect wears off somewhat.
Diane S ☔
3.5 Quirky and whimsical this book of short stories, certainly is. It is also exceptionally entertaining and well written. The first two stories were among my favorites, they were both poignant, especially the title story and filled with magic. Definitely a book worth reading.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh Diving Belles, how I love thee so.

I would leave the review at that but I accept that it won't help you much. Diving Belles is a beautiful short story collection by Lucy Wood that weaves the sea, the land, the people and the mythology of Cornwall into enchanting yet modern tales.

There are tales of husbands lost at sea but not lost forever. The wife that takes a trip in a diving bell for one last encounter. The house, slowly reclaimed by the sea. The pagan care home. Tal
Jan 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am not a fan of short stories so, had not one of my GR groups selected this book, I would have missed out on a beautiful collection.

Ms. Wood has chosen to retell the fairy tales a Cornwall, that magical place in western England. I have only visited as a tourist, but was there long enough not only to appreciate its incredible beauty but also to feel its magic. Ms. Wood is a perfect interpreter of Cornwall's tales to strangers. I can only imagine the meaning she imparts to those who
Buried In Print
This review was deleted following Amazon's purchase of GoodReads.

The review can still be viewed via LibraryThing, where my profile can be found here.

I'm also in the process of building a database at Booklikes, where I can be found here.

If you read/liked/clicked through to see this review here on GR, many thanks.

Diving Belles is a short story collection that was written by Lucy Wood and published in 2012. All the stories in this collection have the location of Cornwall in common. They all also fall into the genre of magical realism and take inspiration from various Cornish legends.

Did I Like It?:
Yes! I liked the way this was written and the melancholic and magical tone of the stories. The setting of Cornwall and the use of Cornish legends was wonderful. These stories mostly all had a
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
Here is, essentially, my experience with this book: one) I thought, 'awww, funky cute cover!'; two) I flipped to the back and thought, 'awww, cute author!'; three) I opened the book and read the first few stories and thought, 'ohhellyeah!'.

I raced through this slender volume in a day -- managing three stories on my commute, two at lunch, three before dinner, the rest after dinner -- and while I probably should have moved a little more slowly -- savored -- I didn't want to stop swimmi
Apr 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Diving Belles” is the first book by Wood, but it doesn’t seem like it. She writes with a maturity that is rare in a new author.

These short stories are set in her native Cornwall, and the sea plays a part in some of the tales. A long dead ship wrecker takes up residence in a young couple’s house, bringing salt and sand and shells in with him. A woman deals with her guilt over her husband’s and son’s deaths by giving up most everything and living in a cave on the shore. Husbands leave home to be
Feb 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jane by: Portia Bell
More a collection of vignettes than short stories, an enthralling blend of realism and surrealism, moving easily and seamlessly from one to the other. The author has evoked Cornwall and her folklore, blending contemporary stories with just the right note of otherworldliness. A woman is turning to stone while house hunting with a boyfriend. A phantom wrecker--one who lured ships onto rocks and stole their cargoes--appears and occupies the house of a couple who has recently moved in. A mother has ...more
Poppy Allbright
Jun 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was filled with individual stories which sparkled and delighted like popping candy; a gourmet treat. Cornwall's plethora of mythical romances born from a culture of seafaring, casts some heady spells. The stories in Lucy Wood's debut collection have a magical sensation to them – slightly surreal, steeped in enchantments and shimmering with an bouillon of the area's folklore and landscape. This is a place in which fairies and spirits and bards rampage unchecked, and pillage from modern- ...more
David Hebblethwaite
This is the best book I’ve read so far in 2012: a wonderful collection of contemporary stories which draw on Cornish folklore. I reviewed Diving Belles for Strange Horizons, so I’ll direct you over there to find out more – but this is a book you really ought to read.
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book of short stories was outstanding. The writing was poetic, the stories -based on Cornish folklore - were a haunting blend of realism and magic. The characters were drawn with such detail that you felt that that you would recognize them anywhere . I can't wait to read more from this author
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Everything seemed quieter in the snow, quieter and further away, so that, lying there in bed, Rita had the vague feeling that if she got up and opened the curtains she would see that the world had packed up and moved on without her during the night.”

The description I read of this mentioned it being in the tradition of Angela Carter, but that feels misleading. These stories lack Carter’s earthy, provocative tone, and they aren’t direct retellings of fairytales. However, they are full
This collection of short stories had many lovely ideas. I enjoyed the magical atmosphere and the legends of mermaids, wishing trees and people turning to stone. However, the stories themselves felt like a weird part of them was chosen. They usually started slightly too long before something actually happened which means you had to struggle through parts that weren't that interesting. Then, when things did get more engaging the stories would often stop without any kind of closure, like something ...more
Zoe Brooks
Amazon Recommends usually fails to throw up much of interest or if it does the book is often one I already have (it even recommended to me one that I wrote), but once in a while Amazon recommends a gem. This debut collection of short stories by Lucy Wood is one such gem.

It has been suggested that Western writers aren't in touch with their magical past, but this book gives that notion the lie. Diving Belles reminds me of the works of Alan Garner, a British writer who had a tremendous
Sep 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, 8, ebooks, anthology
I saw this book mentioned on someone's blog (sorry to be so vague but I don't remember whose) and noted it down as a book that looked interesting but I wasn't inclined to buy on the spot. I may even have downloaded a sample to my Kindle.

Then Gav and Simon over at The Readers announced that it was going to be their second book club read. That was the push I needed and I bought the book and made sure I read it in time for the podcast (which will come out on October 5th, so I made it with some time
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Lucy Wood has a Master's degree in Creative Writing from Exeter University. She grew up in Cornwall. Diving Belles is her first work.
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“There were noises coming from the spare bedroom. It sounded like ripping cardboard. There was low muttering. Maddy walked forwards quietly, hearing every footstep against the carpet. She stopped in the doorway and looked into the room. There was a pale, gaunt man sitting cross-legged on the floor, rifling through the boxes. His clothes and skin were wet and dripping. There was sand everywhere. His skin looked waxy, almost blue in places, and she knew immediately that he was a ghost by the strange restlessness he'd brought with him into the room, a restlessness and a clamouring, as if he had just disturbed a colony of nesting seabirds.” 1 likes
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