SUDDEN TRAVELLER by Sarah Hall (Faber £12.99, 144 pp)
SARAH HALL’s seven short stories are death-haunted; grief and loss are indelibly etched on to her characters’ lives, leaving their melancholy mark.
The titular story is powerful and poetic, beautifully describing the welter of emotions a woman feels as she watches her father and brother clear the ground for her mother’s grave in water-logged Cumbria: ‘we are, all of us, sudden travellers in the world, blind, passing each other, reaching out, missing, sometimes taking hold’.
Meanwhile, in the elegant, searching orton, an older woman heads to a childhood landscape to end her life as she remembers a significant encounter from her past.
who pays? has a more supernatural slant, when a sisterly community in Turkey take quiet, spellbound retribution on a man who has done them wrong: ‘who pays? Always the women.’
HUMILIATION by Paulina Flores, translated by Megan McDowell (Oneworld £12.99, 272 pp)
THE dusty streets of santiago, the poverty of a port town and the steps in front of a ramshackle house are the settings for Chilean author paulina Flores’ stories of financial misfortune and emotional misunderstandings.
Her characters are on their uppers, working dead-end jobs or unemployed, struggling to hold on to dignity and desire in circumstances that seem designed to crush both.
The opening and title story sets the tone, as a disconsolate father and his two daughters walk to a job interview that will prove to be an exercise in humiliation.
In Talcahuano, a young boy, wild and hopeful, plans to rob the local church of its musical instruments to form a band, a joyful caper that collapses when his depressed father takes a corrosive decision.
THESE OUR MONSTERS Edited by Katherine Davey (English Heritage £14.99, 240 pp)
INSPIRED by eight historic sites that are in the care of English Heritage, a variety of authors have created marvellous and menacing new monsters.
Fiona Mozley heads into the ‘blinking wood’ surrounding Carlisle Castle, where the leaves are like ‘eyelids, fluttering, flickering’.
In a wry, sly retelling of The Loathly Lady, King Arthur and sir Gawain go on a quest to answer the question: ‘what do women want?’
In the delicious These our Monsters by Edward Carey, the villagers in ancient, ‘sensible’ Bury st Edmunds list the monsters they don’t have: ‘Chimera, siths, Fauns, devils... people that are no bigger than a conker.’
Meanwhile, Graeme Macrae Burnet unpicks The dark Thread that stitched together Bram stoker’s dracula, in the fitting environment of whitby Abbey.