Book Reviews

English Magic by Uschi Gatward

What Da Cover Says: English Magic moves through fields and parklands, urban estates and empty beaches, upmarket art galleries, scuffed corner shops. It lands at Heathrow Airport, takes a taxi to the suburbs, finds emptiness and oppression. It strikes out for the countryside on May Day to where there are maypoles and fire blazing haybales, and where blessings sound like threats. It takes a train to the sea. The rain powers down. The beach is damp. Balloons pop. It in a flat, drags itself out of half sleep… and there something tapping behind the gas fire. Scraping and flurrying. What is it? In her debut collection of short stories, the prize winning author Uschi Gatward takes us on a tour of an England simultaneously domestic and wild, familiar and strange, real and imagined. Coupling the past and the present, merging the surreal and the mundane, English Magic is a collection full of humour and warmth, subversion and intoxication a and announcing the arrival of a shining new talent. 

What I Says: Well this was stunning, I think some of the most talented writers are those that can produce a short story and take you on what feels like an epic journey and make you forget that it is only 20 or so pages long. Gatward manages to do this again and again. The stories in this collection all feel very different, she seems to be able to capture so many different voices and every story takes the reader in a new direction. She gives nothing away, you can tell something sinister is going on but have no idea until she is ready to share, the opening story “The Clinic” really shocked me, I thought I was getting a story about the fears of parenthood…not at all, it was far scarier than that.

Gatward toys with the readers emotions revealing your paranoia and fears, this is done so well in “Beltane” a normal celebration which leaves you constantly on edge trying to figure out what the sinister plot is and in “Oh Whistle And” (my favourite) she ramps up the pressure by replacing the characters names with letters so that you are never sure who is who and whom to trust. Another fantastic story was “My Brother Is Back” a man released by the US after being held in captivity for a number of years, it’s about him trying to find his family again but his time in prison and sudden release leaves him unsure of his place or even what day of the week it is. Finally another good ‘un was “Lammas” to me this felt like a story told in echoes, an old man remembering events from his past in small muddled glimpses, every now and then you get hit hard by a gentle line.

This is such a good debut collection, you can see why Galley Beggar Press produce so many award winners, it is their dedication to finding that perfect book.

Many thanks to Galley Beggar Press for sending me this copy to review. With my copy I got a little bag of seeds which I “expertly” planted/dumped in my mini wild garden. Some things have started growing, no idea if they are random weeds or from ones from the little bag but this is what it looks like at the moment:

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