From the white doe appearing through the dark wood to the blue-winged butterflies rising in a cloud as a poignant symbol of happier times, the creatures of the Suffolk landscape move through Rosy Thornton s delicate and magical collection of stories. The enigmatic Mr Napish is feeding a fox rescued from the floods; an owl has been guarding a cache of long-lost letters; a nightingale s song echoes the sound of a loved voice; in a Martello tower on a deserted shore Dr Whybrow listens to ghostly whispers. Through the landscape and its creatures, the past is linked to the present, and generations of lives are intertwined.
I was drawn to Sandlands by the cover and synopsis that promised ‘delicate and magical’ stories that incorporate wildlife and nature. It has been a long time since I read a collection of short stories, the last being Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected, and I have to say it made a really nice change from novels. I read them in sequence but it was nice to dip in and out of the different stories and reflect on each one in turn.
Each story is perfectly constructed with a mix of first and third person narrative which results in each tale being unique to the characters within. There are common threads throughout each, such as the setting and certain landmarks appearing regularly, giving a sense of continuity. Therefore, despite each story being a separate tale you get a real sense of place and they work beautifully together while simultaneously having a uniqueness.
Thornton’s prose is stunning. There is a breadth and beauty throughout the pages that transports you to the mudflats and marshes of Suffolk, combined with a tone that is haunting and evocative that has a deep effect on you. As a reader you become completely immersed in the surroundings and the narrative leaving you with the sense that you have been transported to another place.
Myth and legends, paganism and religion–many of which are unique to the setting–all play a part in each tale and along with the prose add a magical quality. This is, ultimately, a book about how the past and present collide and the connections between them. With each tale I was left feeling emotional and moved. The use of nature throughout gives Sandlands a mystical quality and, in some ways, a gothic feel. The placing of each separate story within the book is perfect beginning with the ethereal The White Doe and ending with the poignant Mackerel.
I adored Sandlands and it is book I will return to again and again. It is enchanting, alluring, evocative and beautifully written. Highly recommended.
Published on 21 July 2016 by Sandstone Press.
A huge thank you to Rosy Thornton for the copy of Sandlands in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.
#AroundTheUKIn144Books Challenge Book 6 – County: Suffolk