Blair's Reviews > Diving Belles

Diving Belles by Lucy Wood
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really liked it
bookshelves: contemporary, read-on-kindle, short-stories, 2012-release, macabre-slipstream-weird

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 into animals, but also strained relationships between family members, painful memories and the blossoming of young love. Without exception, I absolutely loved Wood's portrayals of people - rarely have I known characters to come to life so effectively within such short passages. I felt like I knew the characters, and had a kind of emotional investment in them, within just a couple of pages. It was this fact that made it all the more frustrating when I found one story after another inconclusive and abrupt. Events are described, and then they come to an end - there's no structure, certainly no resolution, and after reading a few stories and feeling the same about them all, I realised it was likely none of them would reach a satisfying conclusion. It's not that I think a story absolutely has to have a 'beginning, middle and end' to work, but while they might be avant-garde thematically, nothing about the stories suggests they are also trying to be avant-garde structurally: they just happen, and that's it. I feel like I'm struggling to say what I mean here but basically, the 'plots' felt very empty to me, where the characterisation was very much the opposite.

In conclusion, then, Wood is an excellent, brilliantly talented writer. I will certainly be seeking out her future work, and I hope she writes a full-length novel next, because I'd love to see the potential of that character-building skill truly realised. Additionally, I think some of my annoyance with Diving Belles is down to my approach as a reader: I've always had a difficult relationship with the short story format (see my recent review of Hawthorn & Child). Whatever the reasons, though, I can't avoid the fact that this book didn't really work for me - however much I might have wanted it to.
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Reading Progress

October 30, 2012 – Shelved
November 12, 2012 – Started Reading
November 16, 2012 –
39.0% "So wonderfully written, but these feel like scenes rather than stories, and I suspect they will all be the same."
November 20, 2012 –
64.0%
November 25, 2012 – Finished Reading

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