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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 some 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. This luminous, startling and utterly spellbinding debut collection introduces in Lucy Wood a spectacular new voice in contemporary British fiction. Lucy Wood has a Master's degree in Creative Writing from Exeter University. She grew up in Cornwall. Diving Belles is her first work.


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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 some 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. This luminous, startling and utterly spellbinding debut collection introduces in Lucy Wood a spectacular new voice in contemporary British fiction. Lucy Wood has a Master's degree in Creative Writing from Exeter University. She grew up in Cornwall. Diving Belles is her first work.

30 review for Diving Belles

  1. 5 out of 5

    Scarlet

    Diving Belles is a gorgeously written and richly imagined collection of what are too abrupt and too fleeting to qualify as stories. Each of the twelve accounts capture a moment of magic in an otherwise mundane life - a woman going about her day even as she agonizingly turns to stone, a mother-daughter duo who stumble upon a tree that makes wishes come true, a melancholy ghost who takes up residence in a young couple's home and leaves shells and sand in his wake - yet each is a phantom story, lik Diving Belles is a gorgeously written and richly imagined collection of what are too abrupt and too fleeting to qualify as stories. Each of the twelve accounts capture a moment of magic in an otherwise mundane life - a woman going about her day even as she agonizingly turns to stone, a mother-daughter duo who stumble upon a tree that makes wishes come true, a melancholy ghost who takes up residence in a young couple's home and leaves shells and sand in his wake - yet each is a phantom story, like a reflection on the surface of water, too elusive to hold on to. That being said, I cannot deny the allure of Lucy Wood's debut. It is bewitching in the way it so effortlessly brings together the ordinary, the mystical and the forlorn. Wood's prose is sparse and lovely, and the events and people she describes so suffused with melancholy, that I was constantly reminded of being at a desolate beach under the evening sky, with the wind hissing and the waves crashing. Though gone all too soon, the magic in it was indisputable. Like in any collection of stories, some shine more than the rest. I personally felt the book waned a little towards the end, or maybe the theme and tone had become too repetitive by then to make much of an impression. My favorite was the opening story that also lends to the title, Diving Belles. It is about an old woman who descends to the bottom of the sea to catch a glimpse of her husband, now a merman. I believe it was the perfect introduction to the collection. The ending, though vague, was intensely bittersweet and unexpected, and despite the element of magic, it was the all-too-human feeling of loss and longing that made it stand out. I'm glad I read this collection. It leaves something to be desired, yes, but it is well-written and refreshing, with some truly original ideas. It also introduces Lucy Wood as an author to watch out for.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Fiona MacDonald

    Strange, ethereal, creepy, odd, surreal, magical. These are a few words I would use to describe 'Diving Belles.' One of those books that I finish then sit and ponder on for a long while. Everything in this book, each story, is completely normal, completely everyday, whilst at the same time it is sublimely different. I can't really describe the stories, because you really have to read them to understand their magic. Strange, ethereal, creepy, odd, surreal, magical. These are a few words I would use to describe 'Diving Belles.' One of those books that I finish then sit and ponder on for a long while. Everything in this book, each story, is completely normal, completely everyday, whilst at the same time it is sublimely different. I can't really describe the stories, because you really have to read them to understand their magic.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Blair

    A gorgeously written but sadly unfulfilling collection of what I would call scenes, rather than stories. Lucy Wood's debut combines traditional Cornish folklore with the mundane reality of the everyday: her characters are often lonely, uncertain, leading fragmented and unsatisfying lives, and into these almost painfully realistic depictions the author weaves elements of the strange, the fantastic and the magical. There's a giant's boneyard, people turning to stone and witches who can transform i A gorgeously written but sadly unfulfilling collection of what I would call scenes, rather than stories. Lucy Wood's debut combines traditional Cornish folklore with the mundane reality of the everyday: her characters are often lonely, uncertain, leading fragmented and unsatisfying lives, and into these almost painfully realistic depictions the author weaves elements of the strange, the fantastic and the magical. There's a giant's boneyard, people turning to stone and witches who can transform into animals, but also strained relationships between family members, painful memories and the blossoming of young love. Without exception, I absolutely loved Wood's portrayals of people - rarely have I known characters to come to life so effectively within such short passages. I felt like I knew the characters, and had a kind of emotional investment in them, within just a couple of pages. It was this fact that made it all the more frustrating when I found one story after another inconclusive and abrupt. Events are described, and then they come to an end - there's no structure, certainly no resolution, and after reading a few stories and feeling the same about them all, I realised it was likely none of them would reach a satisfying conclusion. It's not that I think a story absolutely has to have a 'beginning, middle and end' to work, but while they might be avant-garde thematically, nothing about the stories suggests they are also trying to be avant-garde structurally: they just happen, and that's it. I feel like I'm struggling to say what I mean here but basically, the 'plots' felt very empty to me, where the characterisation was very much the opposite. In conclusion, then, Wood is an excellent, brilliantly talented writer. I will certainly be seeking out her future work, and I hope she writes a full-length novel next, because I'd love to see the potential of that character-building skill truly realised. Additionally, I think some of my annoyance with Diving Belles is down to my approach as a reader: I've always had a difficult relationship with the short story format (see my recent review of Hawthorn & Child). Whatever the reasons, though, I can't avoid the fact that this book didn't really work for me - however much I might have wanted it to.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty

    I first read Lucy Wood's debut short story collection, Diving Belles a couple of years ago, and very much enjoyed it. Whilst recently tidying up my bookcase, I came across my lovely hardback copy, and decided to reread it. Jon McGregor writes that Wood's stories 'are brilliantly uncanny: not because of the ghosts and giants and talking birds which haunt their margins, but because of what those unsettling presences mean for the very human characters at their centre.' Ali Shaw calls these 'stories I first read Lucy Wood's debut short story collection, Diving Belles a couple of years ago, and very much enjoyed it. Whilst recently tidying up my bookcase, I came across my lovely hardback copy, and decided to reread it. Jon McGregor writes that Wood's stories 'are brilliantly uncanny: not because of the ghosts and giants and talking birds which haunt their margins, but because of what those unsettling presences mean for the very human characters at their centre.' Ali Shaw calls these 'stories from the places where magic and reality meet. It is as if the Cornish moors and coasts have whispered secrets into Lucy Wood's ears...'. Magical realism is at play in almost all of Wood's stories, all of which are set along her home county of Cornwall's 'ancient coast'. Here, 'the flotsam and jetsam of the past becomes caught in cross-currents of the present and, from time to time, a certain kind of magic can float to the surface'. The setting is what connects the stories on the face of it, but so too does an unsettling sense one gets that darker things are just about to happen. In 'Diving Belles', for instance, Wood writes: 'The bell swayed. Iris sat very still and tried not to imagine the weight of the water pressing in. She took a couple of rattling breaths. It was like those moments when she woke up in the middle of the night, breathless and alone, reaching across the bed and finding nothing but a heap of night-chilled pillows.' The titular story has stayed with me particularly since I first read it. Everything about it - and, indeed, this is the case with every single one of Wood's tales here - is gloriously vivid. There are also fascinating undercurrents throughout which pull one in. Wood's descriptions have an unusual element to them; they are ethereal, almost, particularly with regard to the similes which she employs. She shows, and never tells. For example, 'cuttlefish mooned about like lost old men', 'small icicles hung off the branches like the ghosts of leaves', and 'his right eye got slightly lazy, the iris edging outwards like an orbiting planet'. In a story titled 'Beachcombing', Wood writes about the sea: 'It was ugly a lot of the time, the sea, if you really looked at it. Ugly and beautiful too, with its muscles and its shadows and its deep mutterings, as if it was constantly arguing with itself.' The strains of magical realism, and a series of odd occurrences, are present in almost all of these stories, but each is written in such a way that one never stops to question them; they are rendered entirely realistic in the context of the stories, and are never overdone, exaggerated, or made farcical. Realism and magical realism have been blended seamlessly. In these stories, there is an invisible man, whom only the protagonist and her mother can see after using a particular eye cream; a drowned wrecker who inhabits a couples' house; a giant boy who is just waiting for his growth spurt; a disgruntled grandmother who lives in a beachside cave; and a story told using the collective voice of house spirits. Wood's characters all have mysterious qualities to them. In the story 'Countless Stones', its protagonist's body undergoes a drastic change upon occasion: 'She brushed her hair and tried not to think about it changing to stone, how heavy it would get, how it would drag on her neck and then clog up like it was full of grit, knitting together and drying and splitting and matting.' There is a kind of quiet glory to Diving Belles. It feels like such an effortless, and well tied together collection. Wood is a very talented author. These stories, all of which are imaginative and unusual, really strike a chord. Such a sense of place is evoked here, and each story is incredibly immersive. There is a darkness and a mysteriousness to Wood's Cornwall; it is gritty, almost. Diving Belles is a wonderful collection, which I am so pleased I chose to reconnect with.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Maciek

    Lucy Wood's debut collection contains a few truly magical short stories, and is adorned with one of the more beautiful covers I have seen recently - soft, gentle colors, golden lettering, the yellow lantern and blue mermaid with a shell among the rocking waves circled by golden birds. Call me vain, but I do pay attention to cover art. And who could resist this one? Set in Lucy's native Cornwall, along its coast and among its many moors and forest, the stories contrast traditional Cornish folklore Lucy Wood's debut collection contains a few truly magical short stories, and is adorned with one of the more beautiful covers I have seen recently - soft, gentle colors, golden lettering, the yellow lantern and blue mermaid with a shell among the rocking waves circled by golden birds. Call me vain, but I do pay attention to cover art. And who could resist this one? Set in Lucy's native Cornwall, along its coast and among its many moors and forest, the stories contrast traditional Cornish folklore with everyday, contemporary life. This is a world like our own, but one where fairies, mermaids and forest spirits exist alongside ordinary humans, and interact with them - to various results, not always good. The stories themselves are often bittersweet and pretty dark, much like the old fantasy fables that I used to read when I was a little boy (I grew up reading the Brothers Grimm instead of watching the watered-down Disney animations). Perhaps the best example is the title story, Diving Belles, but I really don't want to spoil it (I found the surprise - not sure if others would agree that it is a surprise - crucial to enjoyment - which employs the traditional lore and combines it with very human longing and desolation. Another favorite story would be Of Mothers and Little People - written entirely in the second person - which is a beautiful and touching reunion story, with a unique (and surprising) twist which turns its on its head to a wonderful effect. The rest of the stories are also unique and enjoyable - brother and sister play in a giant's boneyard, one woman notices that she starts turning into stone while another discovers that her house has a new, weird inhabitant - but while they are genuinely good they didn't quite manage to match the quality of the book's opening few. This isn't necessarily a negative, as the two stories I mentioned are really excellent and should be read by all - but I couldn't help and want more, more perhaps of the same feeling which they evoked in me and which never again sprang to surface and remained hidden beneath it, offering me just a glimpse. I'd still very much recommend it, if only for these early stories - you'd be hard-pressed to find better short fiction elsewhere. Watch Lucy Wood talk about her inspiration here.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Often the books you love are the most difficult to write about. How do you capture just what makes them so very, very magical? Diving Belles is one of those books. It hold twelve short stories. Contemporary stories that are somehow timeless. Because they are suffused with the spirit of Cornwall, the thing that I can’t capture in words that makes the place where I was born so very, very magical. Lucy Wood so clearly understands what it is about the sea, what it is is about the moorland. The beaut Often the books you love are the most difficult to write about. How do you capture just what makes them so very, very magical? Diving Belles is one of those books. It hold twelve short stories. Contemporary stories that are somehow timeless. Because they are suffused with the spirit of Cornwall, the thing that I can’t capture in words that makes the place where I was born so very, very magical. Lucy Wood so clearly understands what it is about the sea, what it is is about the moorland. The beauty, the power, the mystery… I don’t have the words, but she does. And she threads all of this through scenes from contemporary life. She catches turning points, moments to remember, stories that should be retold. There’s a pinch of magic too. So one woman may travel in a diving bell to bring home a husband lost at sea. And another may be called back home when spirit of the sea permeates her inland home. It feels strange, it feels other-worldly, and yet it feels utterly real. I was unsettled and I was enraptured. I turned the pages back and forth, not wanting to leave, and because there was something elusive that I couldn’t quite hold on to. Such lovely writing, and such a wonderful spirit. An extraordinary debut. I am struggling for words but, make no mistake, I am smitten.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dov Zeller

    This is a book of magical or fabular realism. What is most beautiful and intriguing about the stories is not the mythical creatures, but the descriptions of the mundane: relationships to self and other; homes (that memories live in); natural landscapes; bodies of water. The magical stuff enhances the intensity of the mundane, and particularly the bleakness and sharpness of memory, love, loss, feelings of existential lostness. Some excerpts to illustrate at the end of the review. The writing is v This is a book of magical or fabular realism. What is most beautiful and intriguing about the stories is not the mythical creatures, but the descriptions of the mundane: relationships to self and other; homes (that memories live in); natural landscapes; bodies of water. The magical stuff enhances the intensity of the mundane, and particularly the bleakness and sharpness of memory, love, loss, feelings of existential lostness. Some excerpts to illustrate at the end of the review. The writing is very good, at times gorgeous and exquisitely fine. But the shape of the stories didn't draw me in and the magic sometimes felt forced or not in tune with the other parts of the stories. The edition I got from the library has a cover illustration by Eleanor Davis and the book is very beautifully designed. "She made the bed. She picked up her hairbrush and sat on the edge of the bed and started to brush her hair. She thought it had become paler; she was thirty-six and she thought that over the last few years it had become paler. She could never shift the stale bread and onion smell that working in the cafe left in it. Once in a while, if she looked at a magazine in a waiting room or saw an advert on TV, she would think about dying it, but she never did." (23) "You trail off, realising that your mother wouldn't get the joke. The trees bend and shiver; they sound as though they are rifling through their own leaves for something lost." (43) "You go back upstairs and sit in bed, waiting for her to get up. You have never liked houses early in the morning when no one else is around. They all have that still coldness that reminds you of museums, or the bright silence of empty swimming pools. She comes downstairs and pads into the kitchen. She switches on the kettle and you hear the clatter of cups and teaspoons, her quiet early morning noises. (46) "Tessa was getting used to the cold. Small waves slapped into her chest and arms. She waded forward and soon she was up to her shoulders. She ducked under and swam. Her face was streaming and her hair had turned into a black, slippery rope. Her body sliced easily and lightly through the water." (168) "The ground was rockier. There were humped shapes all around. Her father tripped and fell onto his hands but he didn't swear. He told her to be careful even though it was him who had fallen." (200)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Penny

    I decided that 2016 would be the year that I read more fiction. I'm normally engrossed in the Tudor period, or Victorian London, or someone's memoirs or travels, and fiction over the last few years has very much taken a back seat. But I am aware that I might well be missing out. So, I decided to start with a short story collection as a way of easing me in. I loved the sound of Diving Belles and it proved an excellent choice. There's a real mixture of everyday life mixed up with magic and mystery. I decided that 2016 would be the year that I read more fiction. I'm normally engrossed in the Tudor period, or Victorian London, or someone's memoirs or travels, and fiction over the last few years has very much taken a back seat. But I am aware that I might well be missing out. So, I decided to start with a short story collection as a way of easing me in. I loved the sound of Diving Belles and it proved an excellent choice. There's a real mixture of everyday life mixed up with magic and mystery. Apparently Wood has used Cornish Folklore as her starting point, but my knowledge of such folklore is almost non existent. However, the lure of the sea, the wildness of the coast and the pull of the past are present throughout. Two stories really stood out for me. Firstly the woman who occasionally turns to stone and goes to join the standing stones on the cliff top. The description of her body gradually changing (from her feet up) whilst she goes around checking food won't go off in the fridge during her absence was excellent. Secondly I loved the story of the young woman who goes to visit her divorced mother in her childhood home. The woman's perception of her mother being lonely and alone is challenged when she applies some of her mother's 'magic' eye cream. The cream opens her eyes to her mother's life in more ways than one!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mara

    This was fine, but considering the number of times I tried to finish it & kept having to put it down and come back... it wasn't my favorite. If you're looking for magical realism type short stories influenced by fairy tales, I'd send you to Angela Carter This was fine, but considering the number of times I tried to finish it & kept having to put it down and come back... it wasn't my favorite. If you're looking for magical realism type short stories influenced by fairy tales, I'd send you to Angela Carter

  10. 5 out of 5

    Katie Lumsden

    A beautiful rich lovely short story collection - featuring a nice balance of magical realism and the ordinary relationships of everyday life.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jen Campbell

    3.5 :) Will chat about it in my next wrap up video.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amelia

    I am far from Diving Belles's ideal reader - neither short stories, nor magical realism are really to my taste. Bearing that in mind, my rating comes with a caveat: generally I base my rating on a mixture of my enjoyment in the read, how deftly I thought it was written, how I think others will like it, how powerful it was, how much it made me think... Here I am rating on skill. I didn't take much pleasure in reading Diving Belles. Indeed, in several places I took displeasure in it (esp. the stor I am far from Diving Belles's ideal reader - neither short stories, nor magical realism are really to my taste. Bearing that in mind, my rating comes with a caveat: generally I base my rating on a mixture of my enjoyment in the read, how deftly I thought it was written, how I think others will like it, how powerful it was, how much it made me think... Here I am rating on skill. I didn't take much pleasure in reading Diving Belles. Indeed, in several places I took displeasure in it (esp. the story Magpie). But I've chosen not to let that determine the rating: the writing is skilful and shows an intimate knowledge of human nature and it is thoroughly interesting how the author explores very human things through a lens which is not particularly human. She holds tons of promise, just not for me. I was pleasantly surprised by the small history of the typeface used included. It's this kind of detail which sets editions apart.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Made for 4 Extra. Amanda Lawrence reads Lucy Wood's story. Story #2 - I must have a closer look at my Astral Cream pot.... Lovely writing, whimsical stories, delightful. Made for 4 Extra. Amanda Lawrence reads Lucy Wood's story. Story #2 - I must have a closer look at my Astral Cream pot.... Lovely writing, whimsical stories, delightful.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    3.5 Quirky and whimsical this book of short stories, certainly is. It is also exceptionally entertaining and well written. The first two stories were among my favorites, they were both poignant, especially the title story and filled with magic. Definitely a book worth reading.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Clare

    I bought this book, almost entirely because of how beautiful its presentation is. The illustration on the cover, the script of the title and most of all the faded image of a lantern on the spine. The colours of the cover drew me straight to it and then I couldn't put it back on the shelf. Is that good book cover marketing or what! Eventually I opened it and read the blurb on the inside of the cover and it sounded interesting - cornish coastal mythology etc and so I treated myself. This is Lucy Wo I bought this book, almost entirely because of how beautiful its presentation is. The illustration on the cover, the script of the title and most of all the faded image of a lantern on the spine. The colours of the cover drew me straight to it and then I couldn't put it back on the shelf. Is that good book cover marketing or what! Eventually I opened it and read the blurb on the inside of the cover and it sounded interesting - cornish coastal mythology etc and so I treated myself. This is Lucy Wood's first published work. It is a collection of short stories all based on cornish folklore and legends worked into stories that wrap themselves around the mundane and everyday. When I read the first story I was a little disappointed. It is the title story and whilst being a pretty name for a collection, it's not really indicative of what a reader can expect from the book. It is basically about a woman who has lost her husband, apparently to the sea and enlists the help of a particular agency to catch a glimpse of him. It is unconvincing and evokes no sort of a feeling. More of the same follows for the next two stories - 'Countless Stones' about a girl turning to stone now and then and on this occasion carrying out day to day tasks so she leaves nothing unfinished before she can do no more, and 'Of Mothers and Little People' about a magic eye cream that enables the wearer to see these 'Little People'. 'Countless Stones' is perhaps the best of the three but again, it didn't really come to life for me. Then 'Light's in Other People's Houses' begins and that is where the book really opens up. It is beautifully written, so fluid and heavy with feeling. The imagery is superbly handled, it is original and could be applied to many situations leaving room for anyone to identify with its themes. Maddy has moved in with her boyfriend and her parents have since left her childhood home by the sea. Maddy has acquired boxes full of the house's stuff and over a very hot summer an unexpected visitor moves in to the apartment to go through them. The way Lucy Wood handles the decriptions of the heat and of this visitor are very interesting and original. The direction the story takes is unexpected and it was very enjoyable to read. Following that, now that I was in, the rest of the book did not let me down. Each story from that point on was actually exceptional in its own way and I loved reading them all but the other main highlights for me were 'Beachcombing' and 'The Wishing Tree'. In 'Beachcombing' with Oscar we visit his fierce grandmother living in a cave on the beach. This story is quite still and subtle, coldly examining their relationship and the aloof affection they have for each other. Again, Lucy Wood takes us in a surprising direction but one that is exactly right. In 'The Wishing Tree' we are on a trip with a mother and daughter finally coming to terms with each other and the situation they have found themselves in. This story is particularly heart rendering, leaving poignant emotion behind it. Lucy Wood has used old Cornish folklore to tell stories of very everyday and human feelings. She weaves into these stories the stillness and calm that coastal settings inspire in us as the way these characters receive the ferocity of the sea in the events of their lives. It is all very magical but very human. http://clarepbrierley.blogspot.co.uk/...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Wall

    Reading Lucy Wood's Diving Belles is like having your own 'lucky bag' of individually sculpted surprises, each one a delight and a revelation in its own right. The writing is composed and measured, but also has a strange sense of cool detachment that imbues the text with a faint other-worldly tinge. I would have like to see some of the stories expanded however, as they felt far too short. Reading Lucy Wood's Diving Belles is like having your own 'lucky bag' of individually sculpted surprises, each one a delight and a revelation in its own right. The writing is composed and measured, but also has a strange sense of cool detachment that imbues the text with a faint other-worldly tinge. I would have like to see some of the stories expanded however, as they felt far too short.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    These stories are lovely little things, and very beautifully written. But they're so unsatisfying because they don't seem to end, they just stop. This was actually interesting for the first few, but when you can predict the vague way all the stories will end, the magical effect wears off somewhat. These stories are lovely little things, and very beautifully written. But they're so unsatisfying because they don't seem to end, they just stop. This was actually interesting for the first few, but when you can predict the vague way all the stories will end, the magical effect wears off somewhat.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    Oh Diving Belles, how I love thee so. I would leave the review at that but I accept that it won't help you much. Diving Belles is a beautiful short story collection by Lucy Wood that weaves the sea, the land, the people and the mythology of Cornwall into enchanting yet modern tales. There are tales of husbands lost at sea but not lost forever. The wife that takes a trip in a diving bell for one last encounter. The house, slowly reclaimed by the sea. The pagan care home. Tales of the young and of t Oh Diving Belles, how I love thee so. I would leave the review at that but I accept that it won't help you much. Diving Belles is a beautiful short story collection by Lucy Wood that weaves the sea, the land, the people and the mythology of Cornwall into enchanting yet modern tales. There are tales of husbands lost at sea but not lost forever. The wife that takes a trip in a diving bell for one last encounter. The house, slowly reclaimed by the sea. The pagan care home. Tales of the young and of the old. Yet they feel very grounded in everyday life. The woman who is turning into stone checks that there's nothing in the fridge that will go off whilst she's otherwise engaged. Notes from the House Spirits is probably my favourite story. Told from the point of view of the house or the spirits of the house, they watch humans come and go. They don't see things quite the same way we would yet they record the history of the house and its inhabitants. Odd that this is the least Cornish of the stories yet I absolutely adored her descriptions of the sea and coast in the others. The house could reside anywhere, though it does feel like a rural setting. I've always been fond of novels where the house is almost a character in the story so for one to revolve around it was a treat. Even the placement of the final story is fitting, showing that it is a combined piece of work and not a random collection of short prose. The droll seems to pull together elements of the stories and also give the sense of an ending. Indeed, this quote may echo some of your feelings as you reach the end: "So, he had let the stories slip away. They weren't buried anywhere. He thought they might have been buried somewhere. He realised now why the world had become flat and empty. Things were ending." It's an accomplished first work. Even if you think you don't like short stories, I would urge you to give Diving Belles a try. I have been reading it between novels and now I feel a little book-shaped hole in my life.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    More a collection of vignettes than short stories, an enthralling blend of realism and surrealism, moving easily and seamlessly from one to the other. The author has evoked Cornwall and her folklore, blending contemporary stories with just the right note of otherworldliness. A woman is turning to stone while house hunting with a boyfriend. A phantom wrecker--one who lured ships onto rocks and stole their cargoes--appears and occupies the house of a couple who has recently moved in. A mother has More a collection of vignettes than short stories, an enthralling blend of realism and surrealism, moving easily and seamlessly from one to the other. The author has evoked Cornwall and her folklore, blending contemporary stories with just the right note of otherworldliness. A woman is turning to stone while house hunting with a boyfriend. A phantom wrecker--one who lured ships onto rocks and stole their cargoes--appears and occupies the house of a couple who has recently moved in. A mother has a phantom lover. Shapeshifting in a nursing home. House spirits watch over its charge, first empty then through the years of a family living there, then the house gradually empties again. Ghostly dogs on a nighttime moor, explored by father and daughter. Unsettling but somehow hypnotic in its lyrical writing. Highly recommended.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Portia

    I am not a fan of short stories so, had not one of my GR groups selected this book, I would have missed out on a beautiful collection. Ms. Wood has chosen to retell the fairy tales a Cornwall, that magical place in western England. I have only visited as a tourist, but was there long enough not only to appreciate its incredible beauty but also to feel its magic. Ms. Wood is a perfect interpreter of Cornwall's tales to strangers. I can only imagine the meaning she imparts to those who who are from I am not a fan of short stories so, had not one of my GR groups selected this book, I would have missed out on a beautiful collection. Ms. Wood has chosen to retell the fairy tales a Cornwall, that magical place in western England. I have only visited as a tourist, but was there long enough not only to appreciate its incredible beauty but also to feel its magic. Ms. Wood is a perfect interpreter of Cornwall's tales to strangers. I can only imagine the meaning she imparts to those who who are from there. Five stars.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Buried In Print

    This review was deleted following Amazon's purchase of GoodReads. The review can still be viewed via LibraryThing, where my profile can be found here. I'm also in the process of building a database at Booklikes, where I can be found here. If you read/liked/clicked through to see this review here on GR, many thanks. This review was deleted following Amazon's purchase of GoodReads. The review can still be viewed via LibraryThing, where my profile can be found here. I'm also in the process of building a database at Booklikes, where I can be found here. If you read/liked/clicked through to see this review here on GR, many thanks.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sherry

    This book of short stories was outstanding. The writing was poetic, the stories -based on Cornish folklore - were a haunting blend of realism and magic. The characters were drawn with such detail that you felt that that you would recognize them anywhere . I can't wait to read more from this author This book of short stories was outstanding. The writing was poetic, the stories -based on Cornish folklore - were a haunting blend of realism and magic. The characters were drawn with such detail that you felt that that you would recognize them anywhere . I can't wait to read more from this author

  23. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    About: Diving Belles is a short story collection that was written by Lucy Wood and published in 2012. All the stories in this collection have the location of Cornwall in common. They all also fall into the genre of magical realism and take inspiration from various Cornish legends. Did I Like It?: Yes! I liked the way this was written and the melancholic and magical tone of the stories. The setting of Cornwall and the use of Cornish legends was wonderful. These stories mostly all had a sad tone of About: Diving Belles is a short story collection that was written by Lucy Wood and published in 2012. All the stories in this collection have the location of Cornwall in common. They all also fall into the genre of magical realism and take inspiration from various Cornish legends. Did I Like It?: Yes! I liked the way this was written and the melancholic and magical tone of the stories. The setting of Cornwall and the use of Cornish legends was wonderful. These stories mostly all had a sad tone of the past woven through. I could only read one at a time. It was nice to read them that way because they stood out in their own right, but they also could suck you into their poignant and sad vibe. Diving Belles, Countless Stones and Lights in Other People’s Houses were all great stories that had to do with failed relationships. In Diving Belles an old lady hires a service that offers to catch husbands that have strayed and been lured into the sea. In Countless Stones a woman is slowly getting turned into a standing stone during a day when she is trying to help an ex-boyfriend who she keeps in her life, find a house. In Lights in Other People’s Houses a couple is driven apart by the ghost of a ‘wrecker’ that keeps haunting them. All three stories were very vivid and had fantastic imagery of the emotions and situations they were trying to bring to life. Of Mothers and Little People and The Wishing Tree were two pretty good stories that dealt with mother daughter relationships. In Of Mothers and Little People the daughter goes home to visit her mother and she realizes that there is a magical little man that has been following her mother around and is in love with her, where as before she had always thought her mother had been lonely ever since her dad left her. The Wishing Tree deals with a mother and daughter on a trip and the daughter is trying to come to terms with the fact that her mother is ill. Beachcombing was about a grandmother and her grandson who collect things on the beach. She is trying to keep despair at bay as she lost her husband and son at sea. Notes from the House Spirits was one of my favorites and chronicles a certain house and the spirits that inhabit it as they experience various inhabitants come and go. Blue Moon was about a rest home for witchy people. Magpies, The Giant’s Boneyard and Wisht were forgettable for me and probably my least favorite in the collection. The last story Some Drolls Are Like That and Some Are Like This wasn’t my favorite, but wrapped up the collection nicely. It was about an old storyteller trying to give a couple a tour, but he has trouble remembering all the stories. Overall this is a collection I am glad to have read. It was very cohesive. This was Lucy Wood’s debut and I believe she has a couple of novels out now, which I am eager to check out. Do I Recommend It?: Yes! If you’re looking for a good short story collection and the setting of Cornwall, Cornish legends and magical realism seem like your cup of tea I would recommend checking this out.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Audra (Unabridged Chick)

    Here is, essentially, my experience with this book: one) I thought, 'awww, funky cute cover!'; two) I flipped to the back and thought, 'awww, cute author!'; three) I opened the book and read the first few stories and thought, 'ohhellyeah!'. I raced through this slender volume in a day -- managing three stories on my commute, two at lunch, three before dinner, the rest after dinner -- and while I probably should have moved a little more slowly -- savored -- I didn't want to stop swimming in Wood's Here is, essentially, my experience with this book: one) I thought, 'awww, funky cute cover!'; two) I flipped to the back and thought, 'awww, cute author!'; three) I opened the book and read the first few stories and thought, 'ohhellyeah!'. I raced through this slender volume in a day -- managing three stories on my commute, two at lunch, three before dinner, the rest after dinner -- and while I probably should have moved a little more slowly -- savored -- I didn't want to stop swimming in Wood's world of invisible lovers, sentient houses, hungry oceans, and unending damp. I suppose my only complaint is that while the stories are very atmospheric and very moody, there's some bite missing. Wood beautifully evokes the claustrophobic and maddening sense of her scenarios, but ends the stories just as we've acclimated. I finished many of her stories bemused, or sad, or curious -- but never with the shattering sense of unease that makes my skin crawl, like when I read Aimee Bender or Angela Carter. BBC Radio 4 Extra did a reading series of her stories, so if you want to get a sense of her writing, be sure to give them a listen. The five stories featured were among my favorites -- they feature Wood's deliciously damp settings (literally, in some cases!) and quirky, paranormal-y, magical realism-y plots.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    “Diving Belles” is the first book by Wood, but it doesn’t seem like it. She writes with a maturity that is rare in a new author. These short stories are set in her native Cornwall, and the sea plays a part in some of the tales. A long dead ship wrecker takes up residence in a young couple’s house, bringing salt and sand and shells in with him. A woman deals with her guilt over her husband’s and son’s deaths by giving up most everything and living in a cave on the shore. Husbands leave home to be “Diving Belles” is the first book by Wood, but it doesn’t seem like it. She writes with a maturity that is rare in a new author. These short stories are set in her native Cornwall, and the sea plays a part in some of the tales. A long dead ship wrecker takes up residence in a young couple’s house, bringing salt and sand and shells in with him. A woman deals with her guilt over her husband’s and son’s deaths by giving up most everything and living in a cave on the shore. Husbands leave home to become mermen. Not all the stories are of the sea, though, but they all deal with the paranormal world- but with the most everyday manner. We see the inhabitants of a house through the eyes of the house itself. An assisted living home specializes in magical beings. An unimaginably old droll teller (a Cornish wandering story teller) finds himself forgetting the historical things that have happened in the town even though he personally saw them. I’ve seen some reviewers likening Wood to Angela Carter, but I disagree. Carter’s work frequently had a bloody mindedness to it that Wood’s lacks. I’d say she was most like Alice Hoffman, but, really, she is not a copy of anyone. Highly recommended for anyone who likes some surrealism and magical realism with their literary fiction.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Poppy Allbright

    This book was filled with individual stories which sparkled and delighted like popping candy; a gourmet treat. Cornwall's plethora of mythical romances born from a culture of seafaring, casts some heady spells. The stories in Lucy Wood's debut collection have a magical sensation to them – slightly surreal, steeped in enchantments and shimmering with an bouillon of the area's folklore and landscape. This is a place in which fairies and spirits and bards rampage unchecked, and pillage from modern- This book was filled with individual stories which sparkled and delighted like popping candy; a gourmet treat. Cornwall's plethora of mythical romances born from a culture of seafaring, casts some heady spells. The stories in Lucy Wood's debut collection have a magical sensation to them – slightly surreal, steeped in enchantments and shimmering with an bouillon of the area's folklore and landscape. This is a place in which fairies and spirits and bards rampage unchecked, and pillage from modern-day television dramas, while humans are bound by conditions of love, nostalgia and regret. Throughout these stories, Lucy Wood strikes a sure and considered balance of worlds colliding and merging; her wry and gentle humour emphasises that fusion all the more. Quite a brilliant debut.

  27. 5 out of 5

    David Hebblethwaite

    This is the best book I’ve read so far in 2012: a wonderful collection of contemporary stories which draw on Cornish folklore. I reviewed Diving Belles for Strange Horizons, so I’ll direct you over there to find out more – but this is a book you really ought to read. This is the best book I’ve read so far in 2012: a wonderful collection of contemporary stories which draw on Cornish folklore. I reviewed Diving Belles for Strange Horizons, so I’ll direct you over there to find out more – but this is a book you really ought to read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    CaitlynK

    “Everything seemed quieter in the snow, quieter and further away, so that, lying there in bed, Rita had the vague feeling that if she got up and opened the curtains she would see that the world had packed up and moved on without her during the night.” The description I read of this mentioned it being in the tradition of Angela Carter, but that feels misleading. These stories lack Carter’s earthy, provocative tone, and they aren’t direct retellings of fairytales. However, they are full of the achi “Everything seemed quieter in the snow, quieter and further away, so that, lying there in bed, Rita had the vague feeling that if she got up and opened the curtains she would see that the world had packed up and moved on without her during the night.” The description I read of this mentioned it being in the tradition of Angela Carter, but that feels misleading. These stories lack Carter’s earthy, provocative tone, and they aren’t direct retellings of fairytales. However, they are full of the aching longing of a soul away from the sea, lyrical language, and glimpses of older stories and superstitions wound around modern lives. Unnatural circumstances are set up naturally, and Wood’s imagery is vivid and intoxicating. In the not too far future, I think I shall have to pick up her novel.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    This collection of short stories had many lovely ideas. I enjoyed the magical atmosphere and the legends of mermaids, wishing trees and people turning to stone. However, the stories themselves felt like a weird part of them was chosen. They usually started slightly too long before something actually happened which means you had to struggle through parts that weren't that interesting. Then, when things did get more engaging the stories would often stop without any kind of closure, like something This collection of short stories had many lovely ideas. I enjoyed the magical atmosphere and the legends of mermaids, wishing trees and people turning to stone. However, the stories themselves felt like a weird part of them was chosen. They usually started slightly too long before something actually happened which means you had to struggle through parts that weren't that interesting. Then, when things did get more engaging the stories would often stop without any kind of closure, like something was still missing. The book had a lot of potential but didn't uite work for me.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rashida

    3.5 stars. This was gorgeously written, so moody and evocative. You could taste the salt-spray of the sea and feel the breeze over cliffs and coves and beaches. There were some stories that I didn't care for, either because they were too short or uninteresting and just didn't grab me in the same way as the really good ones. However, I usually expect that from a short story collection and I still really want to read the author's other, newer works! 3.5 stars. This was gorgeously written, so moody and evocative. You could taste the salt-spray of the sea and feel the breeze over cliffs and coves and beaches. There were some stories that I didn't care for, either because they were too short or uninteresting and just didn't grab me in the same way as the really good ones. However, I usually expect that from a short story collection and I still really want to read the author's other, newer works!

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