Wednesday, 13 May 2015

A Bundle of Nerves

Joan Aiken
Peacock Books

I first came across Aiken's writing in an anthology called 'Ghostly Experiences', which I loved so finding this was a real treat.

This is a collection of short stories of a ghostly, macabre or just plain darkly humorous bent all written in what I'm beginning to see as Aiken's light and playful written voice.

The tone of the book is set immediately with the brilliantly comedic and twisted 'Cricket' and 'The Man Who Had Seen The Indian Rope Trick', both of which feature tales of stuffy Englishness coming face to face with something 'other' and losing out.  Next up is a fun but insubstantial tale of music and obsession ('Do You Dig Grieg?') and another of lust and avarice ('Belle of the Ball') before the book hits a decided high point with it's sole science fiction tale, 'Five Green Moons', as an angelic alien visits a small British town looking for somewhere he can make his home.  'Smell' adds revenge into the mix before 'Furry Night' brings romance, sport, peril and lycanthropy to the table.

At this point we are only 7 stories in and with 12 still to go  - the next boasts the frankly unparallelled title of 'As Gay as Cheese' - we are already certain that it's going to be a ride unlike many others.  Indeed, as it transpires, over the 19 tales we are treated to an imagination that is playful, inventive, exploratory, refined, bloodthirsty, absurd and peerless.  I am fast becoming a devotee of the lady's work and as such cannot recommend this highly enough.

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