From an unsettling yet enticing search for silence in The Snow Room, to the discomforting portrayal of domestic abuse in The Balloon, Lloyd demands we pay attention and work for our rewards. And the rewards – tale after multi-layered tale that will remain with you for weeks afterwards – are well worth it.
I dipped in and out over a period of several weeks, and often found myself replaying scenes that were so vivid I wasn’t sure whether I had read, heard or watched them. Certain images will stay with you long after a story’s end – for me, it was the moment when Jack traps himself underwater in The Oil Drum, and a sodden trilby with a feather in the headband in The River: “it wasn’t Grandpa’s, but he would’ve liked it.”The captivating Don’t Drink The Water is an exploration of a relationship set against the humid backdrop of Tangiers. Lloyd is a brave writer with a huge amount of, leaving much up to us readers to decipher – rarely telling when she can show, and in this tale the act of reading between the lines takes centre stage as the couple say one thing, mean another and try to fumble through their days in an unfamiliar world that highlights their differences, but also, at times, their understanding of one another.
‘What time is it?’ Sandy asked.
Sandy knew he didn’t wear a watch, had known it all their married life, yet every morning for as long as he could remember she’d asked him what the time was when she woke up; and every morning he’d made the same reply:
‘Don’t know, Sand.’ Now he understood that the question really meant, I am awake, but am I safe?
Lloyd doesn’t shirk from the ugliness of life, weaving through distressing scenes that paint an atmosphere of people out of time, out of place, and trying to cling on to what they know is right.
But the riches of this collection, beyond the cast of fully formed characters, lie amid the extraordinary visuals – a woman comes out of her house “like a snail after rain”, a mother and daughter “rummage through their reminiscences as if they were old and loved clothes they cannot abandon”, a cliff comes alive “with guillemots and ancient colonies of stinking cormorants.”
There’s a line in the pitch-perfect, wistful title story, The View from Endless Street, that tells you everything you should expect from this collection: “He saw extraordinary things, things of beauty tinged with agony, as if the sky reflected all human life back again.”
The View from Endless Street: Short Stories from the South of England by Rebecca Lloyd is published by WiDo and available to buy from Amazon.
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