BOOK REVIEW: The Sing of the Shore by Lucy Wood

Lucy Wood’s ‘The Sing of the Shore’ transports its readers to the Cornish coast, a beautiful place you can be sure of, but the stories are set in the out-of-season period and Wood painstakingly and beautifully captures this particular season with an arrestingly assured prose.

Wood writes in ways that are both captivating and brutally real – making the reader feel the cold, the wind, the rain and the sand in your sandwiches whilst sitting at the beach. It is a feat of immeasurable brilliance and showcases observational writing at its very best.

Each story within the collection seems to have been marinated with the uncanny, ensuring readers are not quite sure what they will uncover. There are stories where teenagers wander and break into vacant holiday homes, people go missing with the tide, neighbours become somewhat enemies.

‘The ditch runs along the bottom of the track, and there’s a drain in the middle that serves both their houses. The drain is always blocked. When it rains, the water fills the ditch and starts spilling over. It rushes along the track and over the grass and pools outside their front doors. It happens every month, every week. The drain spits and gurgles and the water gushes out, greasy and rabbit-coloured. It smells like a jug that’s been holding flowers too long – that slick dark bit that gets left around the edges. Sometimes it seeps under their door. Sometimes it seeps through their walls. In winter it freezes to a gristly crust. In summer midges spawn and dance over it.’

As someone who frequents the beach often (I have family that live a stones throw away from Bournemouth beach and the various coastal paths of the south coast) – I have to say that these stories are remarkable at setting the scene perfectly. Some of the stories are focused on the debris and detritus often found on long walks along the coastline. There are stories of ghosts and folklore which often accompany the sea and the things that lurk at its edges and within the frothy spray – but the key to all of these stories are the wonderfully deep and rich characters that Wood incorporates, each one woven true within each tale.

Wood is deft at creating characters as well as her descriptions and depictions of the seascape, creating time and time again, believable and memorable protagonists within each story. It is a thing of unique beauty, as each story enraptures the reader and transports them majestically to the coast and into the lives of the characters playing out within the pages.

Each characters issues tend to slowly bubble beneath the surface, it’s fabulous layered writing, like an onion – each passing page we find out small details about their lives, that is until Wood takes us deeper into the thrashing waves of the sea and the external and internal factors of peoples lives and circumstance.

If you are a fan of short stories with depth, interesting characters, and a huge dollop of the uncanny. Whilst also having a predilection for nature writing then this is the irresistible collection you need to get your hands on.

Lucy Wood evokes landscapes and nature with remarkable precision and grace, providing a sensuous framing for each unfolding drama. Having said this, it certainly makes The Sing of the Shore a book that needs to be read, a book that is full of power, like a storm filled sea!

The Sing of the Shore is published by HarperCollins and is available here.

Lucy Wood

Lucy Wood is the critically acclaimed author of ‘Diving Belles’, a collection of short stories based on Cornish folklore, and ‘Weathering’, a debut novel about mothers, daughters and ghosts. She has been longlisted for the Dublin Literary Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize, shortlisted for the Edge Hill Prize, and was runner-up in the BBC National Short Story Award. She has also received a Betty Trask Award, a Somerset Maugham Award and the Holyer an Gof Award.Weathering was named as one of ‘The New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2016. She lives in Cornwall.

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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