Well it’s unspeakable outside and it feels like one of those days when the light just never came. It would have been the perfect day for an atmospheric read but sadly I had to make time for some GCSE Maths manuscripts instead.
Just as I was coming to the end of my working day, a sneaky glance at blogland offered up the welcome news that Lucy Wood – author of one of my books of the year, 2014 Diving Belles – had written her first novel, Weathering, and it was coming out later this month. On the 15th to be precise – tomorrow!
I adored Diving Belles and I sort of promised a review in my 2014 round up, so this seems just the right occasion.
To begin, I’ll quote Goodreads – I defy you to tell me you can resist this:
“Straying husbands lured into the sea can be fetched back, for a fee. Magpies whisper to lonely drivers late at night. Trees can make wishes come true – provided you know how to wish properly first. Houses creak, fill with water and keep a fretful watch on their inhabitants, straightening shower curtains and worrying about frayed carpets. A teenager’s growing pains are sometimes even bigger than him. And, on a windy beach, a small boy and his grandmother keep despair at bay with an old white door. In these stories, Cornish folklore slips into everyday life. Hopes, regrets and memories are entangled with catfish, wrecker’s lamps, standing stones and baying hounds, and relationships wax and wane in the glow of a moonlit sea.“
Shortly after reading the back cover copy in my local library, I was hooked. Two pages into the first – and title story – Diving Belles I was as stuck as a fish on a line. When people ask me what kind of books I like to read the most, instead of floundering around trying to describe those who transform myths into everyday settings or find a way of putting a magical spin on the world, I’ll just point them to Lucy Wood’s debut and say “this”. I like to read books like this. Unlike many recent books which I’ve read and very much enjoyed, I’d say it’s certain I’ll re-read this. As the copy I read came from the library, it’s been swiftly added to my list of ‘books I must own soon’.
Wood’s stories are such a beautiful blurring of the ordinary and the otherworldly that they felt entirely real even while raising the hairs on the back of my neck with their gauze-like magic. There’s a desperate poignancy about the people in her tales and it comes from the human side rather than the faerie. I may not have turned to a stone menhir or lost my husband to the merpeople but I can understand and empathise. Past and present overlap so that there’s a curious timelessness to both place and people, all of which serves to lift you out of yourself.
Thanks to Wood, I now want to read more about the Cornish myths and legends that served as the inspiration for her stories. Like the storyteller of the final tale, I want to resurrect and spread them, refreshing both the past and present in the retelling. I’m sure this was Wood’s intention and it has been perfectly and gorgeously realised.
Wood has an uncanny gift for identifying the central core or truth of each legend – the thing that is most frightening or fascinating to us – so that she can carry it into a modern setting and shed light on both her characters and her readers. In doing so, she’s created stories that are timeless, haunting and relevant.
If you want to see Wood explain for herself what she set out to do with Diving Belles, have a look at these videos from Bloomsbury’s website.