This obscure short story stays with the reader long after the final word, the rolling images of the sweeping countryside and the haunting unknown leaving lasting impressions from an undoubtedly skilled writer. However much I tried to erase those feelings of nervousness and remove myself from the claustrophobic yet expansive setting, I failed. Moore had me hooked on her writing, her ability to slowly and beautifully weave a tantalising story together, and her cruel (but excitingly effective) way of shutting me down when I thought I understood it all.
Drew is a hopeless and helpless narrator, who takes one too many wrong turns after leading a stressed and busy lifestyle. The story shows the reader the errors the mind can make when otherwise occupied, the things that it can overlook, the events that it can leads us into if left to its own devices. Drew feels she has a connection to her comatose twin sister and Moore plays wonderfully with the idea of twin attachment, as both sisters seemingly share the same naivety, each mirroring events that place them in vulnerable, trusting positions. The wonderful images of them sharing a childhood over classic musical numbers is a fantastic memory that Drew harks back to – but for the sisters, a memory is exactly what it shall remain.
Music returns throughout the piece, entering and exiting as the story ebbs and flows. It juxtaposes with the eerie quietness we associate with the countryside – Drew’s radio cutting in and out is a clever event from Moore that places both narrator and reader in a state of limbo, both connected and distant from the real world to which she should be heading. However much we scream at the page for Drew to turn around, rethink, do the right thing and stop for a moment, she doesn’t listen. It has the makings of a classic, gut-wrenching thriller that leaves the reader with more questions than answers, but to our delight.
Whatever is happening in that haunting part of the country, Moore sets the scene exquisitely and has the perfect pace to match. This story feels complete – not too much is shown, but I was given enough background into Drew’s life and her sister’s incident that over just a few short pages, I was invested in their both their outcomes. While it was obvious from the start that this isn’t going to end well for either character – Moore begins with Drew veering from her strict traffic directions – it isn’t quite clear just what is going to happen/has happened. The reader is bought to the edge of their seat, and is then left to piece together the rest for themselves. Storytelling at its finest, complete with alluring language that leaves you windswept and dreaming of waves.
Broad Moor is published by Nightjar Press and is available here.
Alison Moore’s first novel, The Lighthouse, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Awards (New Writer of the Year), winning the McKitterick Prize. She recently published her fourth novel, Missing, and her first book for children, Sunny and the Ghosts. Her short fiction has been included in Best British Short Stories and Best British Horror anthologies, broadcast on BBC Radio and collected in The Pre-War House and Other Stories. ‘Broad Moor’ is her fourth story for Nightjar Press. Born in Manchester in 1971, she lives near Nottingham with her husband Dan and son Arthur.
Reviewed by Mariah Feria
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