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Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Multitudes by Lucy Caldwell: A short story of damage and unhappiness.

L ucy Caldwell’s first short-story collection is
largely rooted in her native Belfast and points
up aspects of the city – not the Troubles,
which are barely alluded to, but a rawness and
an intolerance of difference, whether in skin
colour or sexuality. Perhaps that’s the way it was
in the recent past, when many of these stories
are set. They are, on the whole, stories of
damage, of unhappiness and even death. Life
itself feels provisional, not to be relied on. You
might do something ill-considered and suddenly
it could be over, especially if you’re a child with
a child’s exaggerated fears and longings: a
teacher will seem impossibly attractive, a friend
will move away and life will lie in tatters, a
burgeoning relationship will outshine the sun.
Taken together, the stories are a survey of the
threats faced by women from childhood
through to childbirth. Caldwell often uses the
second person in her stories, addressing an
unnamed “you”. It’s a stylistic choice that can
take some getting used to. Where one might
have expected a first-person narrator, it
sometimes feels as though she’s telling herself a
story, comforting herself in the face
of a multitude of hurts.
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