The Sea Change & Other Stories: Helen Grant
Reviewed By Ben Walker
There’s a definite love of folklore and classic literature running through this seven story collection, all of which are pulled from previous publications. As a result there’s a very familiar feel to The Sea Change & Other Stories, so while it doesn’t always feel like it’s going to surprise you, it’s the kind of book you can easily settle down with on a chilly evening, letting its atmospheric tales give your spine an extra shiver.
Most of the stories here rely on first person narration, with only a couple breaking away from this formula. Taking the stories one at a time leads to a better reading experience –these are tales to be savoured, not guzzled, because sitting down to read these all in one go can lead to what I’m going to call First Person Fatigue. The same can be said of a lot of classic ghost stories of course, so the fact that these tales manage to evoke the same style, pace, mood setting and so on means that you’re in for a treat if that’s your thing.
There’s a keen sense of authenticity in the writing here –something that the author notes also highlight – as there are places and myths described which feel equally real. The first story in particular, Grauer Hans, involves an eerie German creature which haunts a child’s imagination, and no wonder – it’s a hideous sounding beast which scrapes at windows and can bypass doors with ease. It’s the perfect nightmare for a young mind and one that’s described in skin-crawling clarity before creeping through the shadows, and the rest of the story. The author notes offer some intriguing details about the inspiration for this creature too, which makes it all the more interesting on a second read.
I can’t say that every story worked for me here – again, maybe this is because I blasted through the book in one go which was, in hindsight, not the best way to experience these stories. But on a second read, I did find it hard to connect with a couple of the pieces, one of which –Alberic de Mauleon – leans into its inspirations from the 1600’s so heavily that it reads more like history than fiction – like I said, there’s no doubting Grant’s ability to be authentic! And Nathair Dhubh involves a rock climbing mystery which never quite finds its feet, though again the attention to detail is spot-on, it just didn’t grip me as much as other mountaineering-based stories have in the past.
So for fans of fireside reads and old-fashioned ghost tales, there’s plenty to enjoy here, especially if you like MR James, who provides inspiration for a couple of the stories.
The Sea Change & Other Stories
In her first collection, award-winning author Helen Grant plumbs the depths of the uncanny: Ten fathoms down, where the light filtering through the salt water turns everything grey-green, something awaits unwary divers.
A self-aggrandising art critic travelling in rural Slovakia finds love with a beauty half his age-and pays the price.
In a small German town, a nocturnal visitor preys upon children; there is a way to keep it off-but the ritual must be perfect.
A rock climber dares to scale a local crag with a diabolical reputation, and makes a shocking discovery at the top.
In each of these seven tales, unpleasantries and grotesqueries abound-and Grant reminds us with each one that there can be fates even worse than death.
Ben got a taste for terror after sneaking downstairs to watch The Thing from behind the sofa at age 9. He’s a big fan of extreme & bizarre horror and well as more psychological frights, and most things in between. When he’s not reading, he’s writing, and when he’s not writing he’s on Twitter @BensNotWriting or reviewing books on his YouTube channel, BLURB.