SHORT STO­RIES

Scottish Daily Mail - - Booksficti­on - EITHNE FARRY

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.

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