April was the month of the Clarke Award, and completing the shortlist led me to read my favourite book of the month — Far North, Marcel Theroux‘s tale of survival in the aftermath of environmental change. I also read two great coming-of=age novels in April: Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey, set in 1960s Australia; and The Spider Truces by Tom Connolly, set in 1980s Kent. And, in terms of short stories, Sarah Singleton‘s tale ‘Death by Water’ from Black Static 15 was my pick of the month.
Still grieving over the loss of his wife, Jeanette, Ian Massey visits a succession of mediums in the hope of contacting her — but all they can do is stir his memories of Jeanette. Until, that is, he meets Spark…
This is a very fine story indeed. I particularly appreciate the way that the true depth of Ian’s grief is revealed subtly, in his increasingly desperate search for the mediums; and that the story’s tight structure (alternating between Ian’s present-day visits to a medium and flashback-dreams to key moments in his and Jeanette’s relationship), and the stark rhythms of its prose, add to the sense that Ian is trapped on his current path.
‘Death by Water’ is the first piece of Singleton’s work that I’ve read; I’ll have to keep an eye out for more.