Τitle: Dead Relatives
Writer: Lucie McKnight Hardy
Publishing House: Dead Ink
Date of Publication: October 21st 2021
Rating: 5 stars
‘’The garden lies quiet, as if it’s sleeping. Nothing grows this late in November, and everything is sad and grey. The only thing of beauty is the lake that lies at the bottom of the slope, glittering and winking in the last of the sunlight. I trudge back to the house. I must prepare for their arrival of the Ladies.’’
In Lucie McKnight Hardy’s eerie, unsettling, exquisite stories, the danger is lurking inside our home, within the soul of what should have been our protective family. Motherhood is not the be-all and end-all of a woman’s existence. Of course, it isn’t. There is popular belief and preconceptions and then, there is real life. Real life plagued by mortal and immortal spectres, curses and crimes. By a society that oppresses its citizens. By estrangement and terror. And yet, hope does exist. Weak and fragile and frail but it IS there to sustain and support us.
This collection is a treasure. An enchanting journey into darkness and despair. And love. The only power that can prevent our demise…
Dead Relatives: In a story that confuses and enchants you in the most twisted way, we meet Iris, a young girl who lives in a house that provides shelter to Ladies. That is, to women with unfortunate pregnancies. But this isn’t a House of Life. It is a House of death in which dead relatives need their peace and dead trees need to be fed. What a way to start a brilliant collection! The imagery will leave you breathless, and there is a distinctive Southern Gothic feeling permeating the narrative.
‘’It is the light that has brought them here. That cold, lucid light that trips in over the North Sea, bringing with it the threat of ice and nightmares. ‘’
Jutland: A couple with two children moves to Jutlan to satisfy the husband’s ‘’artistic’’ needs. It is a rugged land. The house is old, and there seems to be something wrong with a boy that stands all alone next to the shore… My God, this story is… Perfect? Terrifying? All of the above?
Badgerface: The arrival of a soldier from Afghanistan brings back memories of loss and pain in a moving story with a young protagonist that will break your heart.
The Pickling Jar: In a small community, the death of each husband becomes an opportunity for a macabre cooking contest on the day of the funeral, with strict rules and suspicious ingredients…
Cavities: A visit to the dentist triggers childhood memories whose roots produced rotting fruit. A story full of sadness and cruelty. One of my favourites in an incredible collection.
Resting Bitch Face: A woman is caught between a rock and a hard place, between a good for nothing husband and an abusive father, between indifference and hostility. I won’t forget this story anytime soon, the metaphors within the narrative provide ample food for thought and discussion.
The Puckering: A lyrical story steeped in sea folklore. Poetic and haunting, and so sad…
Parroting: A parrot unites a young boy and a mysterious old lady.
Cortona: A woman travels to Italy for her annual visit to Cortona, in the most tragic of pilgrimages. The way in which the story slowly unfolds is phenomenal!
Chooks Don’t Have Teeth: A teenage girl finds her anchor in the presence of a schoolmate’s mother since her own mum doesn’t seem able to provide the necessary support and understanding.
The Devil of Timanfaya: A family travels to the Canary Islands for their holidays, in a neighbourhood that hides a dark secret. This story gives me chills even now. One of the most striking Horror stories I’ve ever read, reminiscent of Robert Aickman and Daphne du Maurier.
Wretched: A story of love, resistance and the weak, flickering flame of Hope within the heart of a dystopian Britain ruled by a totalitarian regime.
The Birds of Nagasaki: A story of unbearable beauty and sadness. Of the sweet atmosphere of home and family. Of the terrors that may lurk underneath. Of the bond between siblings and the past that always haunts our steps…
‘’The flutter is still there in the darkness. I lie for a moment, absorbing the familiar rustle. It is neither comforting nor distressing, but has become an indelible part of my existence. My eyes have now become more accustomed to the darkness, and a pale halo glows around the window, the faintest indication of an outdoor, moonlit world.’’