by Peter Hobb
absences from Clare Wigfall’s masterful debut collection of
stories resonate almost as powerfully as what is present. A brooding
sense of loss recurs throughout. Sometimes information is withheld from
the reader: in Night After Night, the
narrator’s husband is arrested for an unspecified (and
consequently more disturbing) crime. And sometimes the narrative
revolves around what is missing: in Safe, babies
are vanishing, all over the country, without explanation.
sense of incompleteness tugs on the reader’s imagination,
presents us with enough information to darkly conjure the rest. Then,
when things are
found – a baby in The Numbers, a body in When
the Wasps Drowned, they too prove to be the result of hidden
crimes. It seems that both secrets, as well as their unveiling, contain
their own unique horrors.
in any case, are no problem when you have a writer able do so much with
so few words. Two of the very best stories in here, Caro at
the Pool (in which the surface of the pool catches the light
"in a way that looked almost like a sound too high to hear.") and A
Return Ticket to Epsom, cover only seven pages
between them, but in each Wigfall conjures a scene which provokes a
wide range of emotions in the reader. Perfectly formed and coolly
elegant, these two stories linger in the mind long afterwards,
reminders of how short stories can be such a uniquely rewarding art.
together, these stories read like expressions of a unique and
compelling artistic vision. It almost conceals the impressive range
covered in the collection. The Party’s Just Getting
Started is set in contemporary, high society LA, Night
After Night in post-war Britain. The stories range still
further – to the nineteenth-century Paris of The
Ocularist's Wife, and then, with the opening story, The
Numbers, into a remote Island community in an uncertain time.
There’s something otherworldly about this story, a brooding
atmosphere also tapped into by the title story.
moves between these territories effortlessly, creating her worlds with
a wonderful economy, the perfectly weighted use of details and voice.
She conjures an earthy dialect for The Numbers,
and an easy twang for the Clyde Barrow-narrated Folks Like Us:
"I wouldn’ve put myself a man who believed in destiny or
nothing…" he begins.
Loudest Sound and Nothing
is the finest debut collection I’ve
read since Clare Keegan’s
and like Keegan, Wigfall seems to
have emerged as a talent fully-formed. These are sorrowful,
disturbing and darkly beautiful stories, and they deserve, absolutely,
to be read.
Intrigued? Read some of
stories from this collection on myspace.com/clarewigfall and Story
was first published by Story.)
Peter Hobbs was
born in 1973, and grew up in Cornwall and Yorkshire. His first novel, The Short Day Dying,
won a Betty Trask award and was shortlisted for the Whitbread First
Novel award, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, and the International IMPAC
award. It was followed by a collection of short stories
I Could Ride All Day
in My Cool
Curtis Brown Prize, 1999, Longlisted
for the 2008 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award.
The story The
Numbers, from this collection, was awarded the 2008 BBC
National Short Story Award.
bio: Clare Wigfall
was born in Greenwich, London during the summer of
‘76. She grew up in Berkeley, California, and
London, and now lives in Prague. Her stories have been
published in Prospect, New Writing 10, The Dublin Review, X-24, Tatler,
Bordercrossing Berlin and commissioned for BBC Radio 4.
with Clare Wigfall
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Publisher's Website: Faber
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