“Stories as thick as clotted cream spring out of these Harris peat bogs.”- Dianne Ebertt Beeaff, On Traigh Lar Beach
Those of you who follow me on Twitter might know about my contribution to Clare Carlin’s Pieced Work. One of the premises of the project is that there are often stories behind objects, and those stories might surprise you. Since I submitted my piece I’ve been thinking a lot about the histories surrounding objects so it felt serendipitous that I came across this book where stories behind objects was a theme.
This book introduces us to a writer who won a prize for her book but since then has had issues with writer’s block. After coming across some objects that have been washed up on a Scottish beach, she is inspired to write a short story that explores the story behind each object. And from writing those short stories she is inspired even further to write a novella based on a fictional Scottish band named Datha.
The stories in the book to be very powerful, shocking at times. There is often the sense of tragedy and all sorts of strong emotions, things you wouldn’t guess by just looking at the object. Whenever I read a book I often pay attention to the thoughts and ideas that go through my head, and this one got me thinking about humankind on the whole, and how we are all connected, as cliché as it may sound. The objects that washed up on the Scottish beach come from various parts of the world, another reminder.
The author’s writing is very beautiful and I especially loved the way she described nature, which is always there amidst the tragedy, the sadness:
“How I treasured the velvet dampness of black loam crumbling in my hands. Spring earth sliced with fresh shoots as snappy as wintergreen, autumn’s crunch and rustle, the chilled sea greens of deep summer– those long sunlit afternoons when sweet peas popped like limey jewels into colanders and new potatoes cracked the earth like nuggets of gold.”
The novella, Fan Girls, took me back to my teenage obsession with the Backstreet Boys. I hadn’t really thought about the emotions that go behind being a serious fan of a group for a while, so it was interesting to read the thoughts of the fans of Datha, some of whom remind us just how cathartic and life changing art can be. As one of my favourite characters, Emily, says, “Datha’s words and the power of their music had ignited a glimmer of my own potential. Isolation melted away with an intensity so intoxicating I could still ball it up in my fist like lightning. I’d stretched my soul out into the glittering darkness, released from expectation, from dependence and fear, determined that whatever threads still held together the thin fabric of my existence, being beaten could not possibly be one of them.”
This was definitely one of my favourite reads of year, especially welcome in a year in which I couldn’t find much to maintain my attention. Thanks so much for Smith Publicity for the complimentary copy!