25 September 2007

A review of The Loudest Sound and Nothing by Clare Wigfall

There is something of the fairy tale around the publication of Clare Wigfall’s collection of short stories – you can read about it on her MySpace site http://www.myspace.com/clarewigfall - and so it is gratifying to report that indeed there is magic in her words. If not happy-ever-after endings.

‘Safe’ is a haunting, menacing tale set in present day Britain about the mysterious disappearances of newborn babies and a plague of malevolent rodents, seen from a new mother’s point of view. There are overtures of The Pied Piper of Hamelin and Wigfall cleverly ensures that we are never certain how much of it is the product of a disturbed, or chronically sleep deprived, mind.In ‘The Party’s Just Getting Started’ Wigfall brings Adam, Eve and Adam’s first wife, Lilith, to modern day LA. ‘Night after Night’ transports us to shabby, post-war Bethnal Green where Joycie’s husband is arrested for a heinous crime. And in ‘The Ocularist’s Wife’ we are taken to a besieged nineteenth century Paris.

The sheer breadth of variety and style on display in The Loudest Sound and Nothing is enough to impress. On top of this striking diversity, you can add plaudits like beautifully crafted, an original voice, erudite and fresh. And this is a debut collection.All seventeen tales are meritorious, and deliciously surprising. Wigfall packs a mean punch into the shortest of stories - there is no excess flab in her work and she proves beyond any doubt (if you were ever in need of any) that less is most definitely more.

If you like resolution in your tales you won’t find it here. These stories are laced with ambiguity, and their depth and power lies in the silences, the ‘nothings’, which Wigfall leaves to her reader's imagination.Unforgettable, dark stories covering the prosaic and the extraordinary, often in the same breath. Wigfall is a talent to watch.
The Loudest Sound and Nothing by Clare Wigfall, published in paperback by Faber and Faber, £12.99

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