Eastmouth and other stories

Beautifully crafted, easy to read stories by Alison Moore that are intricate studies in helplessness and despair. The characters find themselves enmeshed in situations that keep getting worse until often they are crushed. The environment shackles them. Language holds them. Revenge arrives, soporifics are deployed, the decay is in all things. They are drawn to that which will damage and destroy them.

The stories are ruthless shadows. They span a decade, most published in magazines, a few published in this book for the first time. Her last collection, The Pre-War House and Other Stories (2013), contained stories written before The Lighthouse (2012), which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She’s written four novels since then: He Wants (2014), Death and the Seaside (2016), Missing (2018), and The Retreat (2021). It’s an impressive run. I wonder how the Eastmouth stories fed the novels, and vice versa? I like the pattern of writing short pieces alongside longer ones, then releasing a collection when there are naturally enough stories to fill one. Pretty poison pills. It seems natural. Healthy, even.