As well as the new book of Joel Lane's non-fiction (see below) I am the lucky recipient of a new collection of stories by Charles Wilkinson, Thanks to Egaeus Press for this review copy of A Twist in the Eye, which is a beautiful book. I need hardly say that I'm a fan of the author's work, as two of the stories included here previously appeared in ST. So, without further ado, let us commence one of my almost-popular running reviews.
Like most of Wilkinson's fiction, 'Returning' is a low-key, apparently simple affair. An older married couple, Terence and Josie, go on holiday to the same seaside town each year. Their lives, to a casual observer, might seem dull and bounded by timid respectability. But Terence's love for Josie and his sense of impotence as she gradually dies from an unnamed illness is all the more painful for being so understated.
The supernatural element is a spectre of the living, a quasi-doppleganger, that Terence sees during his last holiday with Josie. The twist, if it is one in the familiar sense, is that the 'ghost' he sees is his older self, a widower in decline. Thus Terrence's vision heralds the death of his 'better half'. Wilkinson blurs past and future into a kind of static, eternal present in the tale, which dwells on mortality without rancour. In the face of death we can do nothing but go on being ourselves.
Stay tuned for another mini-review.