Diving Belles, by Lucy Wood

Diving Belles, by Lucy Wood is like nothing I have ever read before – and that’s a good thing!

I’d heard a lot about this book and had read the very high praise it was receiving so was intrigued to see what all the fuss was about. I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The jacket sleeve alone is enough to wax lyrical about, with it’s enticing  imagery and wonderful colours.

Diving Belles is a collection of twelve short stories, all of which are set around the Cornish coast and which, to offer a simple explanation, combine Cornish folklore with the everyday. But these are not simply stories about tin mines, pixies and fishermen. Far from it and I’m sure Lucy would wince at the thought!  These are intriguing, magical, other-worldly, truly original stories which really defy genre or description.

As the blurb on the inside of the book states: ‘Along Cornwall’s ancient coast, the flotsam and jetsam of the past becomes caught in the cross-currents of the present and, from time to time, a certain kind of magic can float to the surface….Straying husbands lured into the sea can be fetched back, for a fee. Magpies whisper to lonely drivers late at night. Trees can make wishes come true – provided you know how to wish properly first.’

It doesn’t feel quite right to say here what Lucy’s stories are ‘about’ – I think each reader will decide that for themselves – but I will admit to particularly enjoying ‘Countless Stones’ and the title story, ‘Diving Belles’.

This is certainly a book for lovers of words and imagery, for readers who want a book to immerse them in another place completely, to whisk them away from their suburban sitting room and deposit them among the standing stones, underwater worlds and soaring clifftops of Lucy’s creation. It is, perhaps, the best sort of fairy tale book for grownups.

I thoroughly enjoyed Lucy’s stories and while I was certainly taken into the world of Cornwall’s ancient coast, I suspect Diving Belles could become even more magical if read while sitting on a bench on a windswept coastal path.


Lucy Wood has a Master’s degree in Create Writing from Exeter University.  She grew up in Cornwall. Diving Belles is is her first work.

Diving Belles is published by Bloomsbury in hardback. Many thanks to Eleanor Weil for sending the review copy.

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