“In this collection of eerie, beautifully-crafted stories, lives are lived slightly out of sync with the ordinary world. From a man who makes sock puppets to elderly Italian craftswomen and hens at a taxidermy party, family stories are seamlessly woven with folklore, journeys and natural phenomena to examine the quirks, pain and resilience of human existence.
Framing her tales in the nebulous, shimmering concepts of sky, light and rain, Judy Darley deftly explores our relationship with the natural world and one another, reminding us that however far we travel, some connections remain unbreakable.”
There are few things that excite me more than a brilliant collection of short stories. I love getting lost in a novel, of course, and spending time getting to know characters over pages and pages, but there is a different kind of thrill involved in reading a book of short stories, a kind of lucky dip element, a little bit of lots of different things, a fictional tapas spread which tantalises different parts of the mind with each new tale. Sky Light Rain is a fantastic example of this: the stories are varied both in length and tone, some flash pieces, some almost like mini chapters of a novel. Exploring Darley’s many worlds is a delicious treat.
The titles of the stories, which are divided into three sections, read almost like poetry in themselves. The opening story of ‘Sky’, ‘Untrue Blue’, lifts the reader up into the world of the imagination from the very first sentence: “As children we would go flying at night“, and your feet do not touch the ground until the final sentence of the last story of ‘Rain’. Darley’s imaginative flights of fancy are poetic and beautiful, crammed full of stunning natural imagery and surprising word combinations, but alongside the ethereal beauty, the fairytale language and imagery, there is a darker note, thrilling and at times horrifying. In the ‘Light’ section, ‘Invertebrates’ is the clearest example of this, but there are more subtle threads of gothic-tinged darkness in many of the stories.
Some of the shortest pieces are the most impactful. Flash fiction is so difficult to write well (I have tried!) but Darley excels at it. ‘Weaving Wings’ and ‘The Moth Room’ were among my favourite stories in this collection; both are under a page. Of the longer stories, ‘Woman and Birds’, about a peculiar treasure hunt in Barcelona, ‘The Blue Suitcase’, about a woman who follows through on an airport impulse I’m sure most of us have thought about but would never act upon, and ‘Merrow Cave,’ a story that beautifully combines personal and mythical elements, are three that will stay with me for a long time. I don’t want to go into too much detail in this review as for me one of the greatest joys of this collection was the thrill of the unexpected, the way some of the stories mutated into fairy tales while others remained more rooted in the ‘real world’.
There is a strong sense of experimentation and limitless imagination in this collection, and it is a pleasure to experience. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the boundless possibilities of short fiction, and the blurred intersection of myth and reality.
Note: I received a gifted copy from the publisher in return for an honest review. Many thanks to Valley Press and to the author for my copy of Sky Light Rain.
Sky Light Rain is published by Valley Press and is available to purchase here.
For further information about Judy Darley, have a look at her beautiful website http://www.skylightrain.com/ or find her on Twitter @JudyDarley.