Women Out of Water
Review: Karen Watkins
Show, don’t tell. Learning how to show, don’t tell in writing is one of the most difficult – and important – parts of writing.
Sally Cranswick is astoundingly adept at this as well as plot, structure, pace and theme.
This series of nine stories are as varied in the subject matter as they are in length – some are a couple of pages long, others are lengthy – and yet leaving you wanting more.
There is a common thread woven through each story – women – hence the title.
And yet it’s not just a book for women and should appeal to everyone. Cranswicks’ style is also flexible.
Such as Freedom: One Day At A Time, where she has used single word sentences: Lock door. Quiet. Dark. Alone. Sticky fingers. Crisps. Headache. Damp. Flat. Smell. Body. Not tired, but tired. The punchy, funky, upbeat prose of musicians creates all the elements of drama and focus.
My favourite is Horse, a story about Alma, 88 whose son is breaking in a thoroughbred stallion. But he’s going about it all wrong. The horse escapes. Packing a few essentials and carrying her cane Alma sets off to track the horse through the farm she knows so well. Her search is a time for contemplation as she relives her past and finds strength within.
The horse is a salvage in her life. Horse was longlisted for the Paris Literary Prize in 2011 and was published by the Novella Project in 2012.
And yet another favourite is Mother, the story of a young woman who leaves her corporate job. She dreams of making the perfect shiraz. As her marriage disintegrates she buys a neglected farm, gives birth to Finn, plants vines. This is a riveting and yet heart rending story showing a woman’s strength and courage in adversity. And it must have taken hours of research.
And then there is Trade. The story of women traded into prostitution. It’s about Luca who hears the sound of her name, walks down a hallway hearing a man’s footsteps behind her. Luca, whose one wish is to marry a prince. It’s not an easy read or to follow as the story appears to jump between timelines but this does not detract from the tragedy of the topic.
Other stories are about a mother who leaves her war-torn home to seek safety for herself and her daughter. There are two stories with a begging theme. Bread was published in POWA’s 2012 anthology, Breaking the Silence: Sisterhood.
This book is a keeper. You are sure to thoroughly enjoy and savour each of these exquisitely written stories and return again and again.