Likely Stories: Death and the Seaside by Alison Moore

Mar 26, 2020

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

Aside from Margaret Attwood, I rarely encounter novels from Canada.  However, when Death and the Seaside by Alison Moore grabbed my attention, I was intrigued.  Then I began the novel, and my intrigue meter went off the charts.  Her first novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. And her short fiction has been included in Best Short Stories and Best British Horror anthologies and broadcast on BBC Radio.  My intrigue meter went up another notch.

Alison writes, “Sometimes, Susan woke to find that her limbs were dead.  Her arm would be flung back, bent beneath her head, the blood stopped, and she would have to move it with her other hand, the dead weight unsettling her, as if she had woken to find a ten-pound leg of lamb lying on her pillow; or one leg would be lying lifeless beneath the other, and she would have to lift the numb leg with both hands, holding it under the thigh and hanging it over the side of her bed like a Christmas stocking that wanted filling.  This had been happening to her for as long as she could remember” (3).

Chapter two reveals that chapter one was a short story Bonnie was writing.  She was a woman approaching her thirties.  Alison writes, “At the end of February, Bonnie moved into the flat on a six-month tenancy agreement.  She had recently been turned down by a temp agency, but she had two cleaning jobs.  She was hoping to find something she liked better.  She kept putting in applications but rarely got interviews; and when she did get an interview, she never got the job.  For now, her parents were supplementing her rent.  She could not afford to buy anything for the flat, but it came partially furnished anyway; there was even an old television.  And she brought some home comforts with her from her parents’ house: she had a kettle that her mother had been about to throw out, and a small supply of tea bags to tide her over, and she had her books.  She had more books than shelf space: on either side of the bookcase in the lounge, the books spread in piles across the floor, reaching towards the doors, towards the bedroom and the kitchen, as if they were trying to get out, to go to the out into the world.  She did her best to make the flat feel like hers, putting her own bedding on the mattress, and placing her knickknacks around the lounge, though they looked a bit lost in that long, dim room.  She moved them around a little” (16-17).

One day, Sylvia drops by the flat, and introduces herself as her “land lady.”  She also finds a slip of paper under her door with nothing written on it.  She imagines people are following her, and she fears a local man has a key to her apartment.  Alison Moore has written an interesting and gripping tale.  5 stars.

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!