Tuesday, 25 September 2018

'Friday', 'Heartwood', and 'Figurehead'

Three more short tales from Figurehead by Carly Holmes (Tartarus Press 2018).

The first story is, on the face of it, a sad tale of a recently widowed woman in the grey, soulless period between her husband's death and the funeral. She takes phone calls, makes arrangements, plays with her dog. But all the time the hills outside are moving, gathering, gradually coming closer. She must hold out until Friday.

'Heartwood' is another story of a woman transformed, merging earlier themes. Like 'Bake Day' it explores the boundaries between womanhood and motherhood, as a brother and sister react very differently to their mother's hybrid nature. 'In the spring and summer threads of blossom sprang from her scalp and twisted down her shoulders.' Full of beautiful imagery, the tale ends with a betrayal in the name of orthodoxy, a sense of loss.

The title story takes us a step further, with a carved mermaid on the prow of a ship becoming conscious, merging with the soul of the vessel. The description of a flirtatious figurehead's eventful life  and times is great fun, but as the story unfolds it becomes clear that she is no mere sex symbol. Hello sailor, goodbye.

This is a very enjoyable book precisely because it combines longer tales with compact, diverse tales on strange and fabulous themes. I will have more to say about it in day or two.

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