In the tradition of Angela Carter, this luminous, spellbinding debut reinvents the stuff of myth.
Straying husbands lured into the sea by mermaids can be fetched back, for a fee. Trees can make wishes come true. Houses creak and keep a fretful watch on their inhabitants, straightening shower curtains and worrying about frayed carpets. A mother, who seems alone and lonely, may be rubbing sore muscles or holding the hands of her invisible lover as he touches her neck. Phantom hounds roam the moors and, on a windy beach, a boy and his grandmother beat back despair with an old white door.
In these stories, the line between the real and the imagined is blurred as Lucy Wood takes us to Cornwall’s ancient coast, building on its rich storytelling history and recasting its myths in thoroughly contemporary ways. Calling forth the fantastic and fantastical, she mines these legends for that bit of magic remaining in all our lives—if only we can let ourselves see it.
""Lucy Wood is a sorceress. These stories unfold in a dreamy marine light, one that reveals the miraculous in the everyday. Diving Belles is a perfect name for this debut: It is guaranteed to enrapture a reader, and you'll want to come up slowly from its depths.""
—Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia! and St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves
“Diving Belles is a lovely, absorbing collection of tales, animated by Lucy Wood's remarkable gift for evoking Cornwall as both a physical and mythic place. She is writing out of a rich tradition yet making it utterly her own.”
—Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, author of Ms. Hempel Chronicles and Madeleine Is Sleeping
""Each year, book blurbs tell you that a thousand new writers have fresh, distinctive voices. But fresh, distinctive voices are actually very rare. Lucy Wood has one.""
—Michel Faber, author of The Crimson Petal and the White
""Lucy Wood has an intensity and clarity of expression, deeply rooted in a sense of place. Her stories have a purity and strength, and an underlying human warmth; they resonate in the mind.""
—Philip Hensher, author of The Northern Clemency
""These 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 ... A startling, and startlingly good, debut.""
—Jon McGregor, author of If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things
""These are 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 and, in response, she has fashioned exquisite tales of mystery and humanity. In her prose, the fabulous moves across the everyday like the surf moving over the shore, shifting it in subtle measures, leaving it altered in its wake.""
—Ali Shaw, author of The Girl with Glass Feet
""Wood captures something fresh, fantastical and eloquent...These stories express a distinctive voice and a gently beguiling imagination."" —Kirkus
""Whimsical...Lovers of fairy tales and Celtic lore will take pleasure in immersing themselves in the rich, magical world Wood’s tales inhabit."" —Booklist
""Aching and mystical...These are distinctively grown-up fairy tales that re-create a sense of wonder and imagination without the moral endings of their childhood counterparts, but, like them, linger in the imagination."" —Publishers Weekly
“Magical and bewitching tales.”
“Wood’s finely wrought collection has touches of a benign Angela Carter and recalls the playful yet political transmogrifications of Atwood and Byatt ... Dreamily nuanced.”
""These tales are soaked in the magic and folklore of the place—but the magic is often an expression of inexpressible human emotion…Wood’s imagination is extraordinary; she has an instinct for the inner meanings of myths that echoes the great Angela Carter. Superb.""
—The Times (UK)
""A vibrant new voice ... Why read it: for her distinctive voice and sense of place.""
—Tatler, ""Top Titles"" (UK)
""Llovely and intriguing ... Wood pulls off a careful balancing act between fantasy and reality, folkloric past and prosaic present...Winsome, quirky, and sometimes enchanting, Wood’s stories seem to fish about in rock pools of imagination... Her gift… is for conjuring up gentle suspensions of disbelief.""
—The Sunday Times (UK)
""Cornish folklore for the modern day, done in a beautiful, spooky way.""
—Harper’s Bazaar (UK)
""This bewitching short story collection draws its power from a deft blend of Cornish folklore and everyday contemporary cares. Centered mostly around women—young women, old women, women becalmed somewhere in between—magic encroaches upon their narratives as slowly but surely as the incoming tide, so that even the most outlandish goings-on come to seem natural.""
—Daily Mail (UK)
""A winning combination of spooky mystery and toast-and-tea coziness, with much warmth and tenderness.""
—Metro (UK), 4/5 stars
""Cornwall’s magic casts some pretty strong spells. The stories in Lucy Wood’s debut collection have a distinctly otherworldly sensation to them—slightly surreal, steeped in enchantments and shimmering with an infusion of the area’s folklore and landscape… Wood strikes a sure and canny balance of worlds colliding and merging; her wry and gentle humor emphasizes that fusion all the more.""
—Independent on Sunday (UK)