This collection of sixteen strange stories, in which Death is never far away but tenderness is also very present, includes a light sprinkling of ghostly, menacing tales and stories of the fantastical. But it is, for the most part, made up of stories that while distinctly peculiar, are not outside the range of human experience, and so could be regarded as realistic – although perhaps ‘realistic’ makes them feel too safe. They more inhabit that fragile space between fantasy and reality where the landscape is in constant flux and things may not be what they seem to be.
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Characters apparently talking at cross purposes, along with scenes where we can only guess at the context, are common traits in Lloyd’s fiction, devices she uses to wrong foot the reader before the gleeful reveal. Both are at work in ‘The Careless Hour’, where we expect the worst from Michael’s conversation with his female visitor, as overheard by neighbour Whitey, but the truth is even more strange, with the revelation at the end of this delightful story bringing a wry smile to this curmudgeonly reviewer’s face.
Finally we have The Reunion’, another tale of an unusual family, told from the viewpoint of the daughter who bears witness to her argumentative parents leaving the confines of draughty Shuttered House and setting up home on a canal boat, only things don’t really work out for them, the story shot through with compelling atmosphere, vivid dialogue and memorable characters, ending the collection on a veritable tour de force. Lloyd is a new writer to me, but one I am delighted to have made the acquaintance of, and in publishing this collection Tartarus provide yet further proof that the strange tale is in a robust state of health.
Peter Tennant 20th May 2014 Black Static
Other showcased works by Rebecca Lloyd: Endless