Short Story of the Month | ‘Let Her Go’ by Maggie Ling

Let Her Go Maggie Ling Short Story

October’s Short Story of the Month is ‘Let Her Go’ by Maggie Ling. Previously an illustrator and cartoonist, Maggie now writes short stories. Her writing has been commended and longlisted by a number of prizes, and published in Unthology, and the Asham Award-winning ghost story collection, Something Was There (Virago 2011).

In ‘Let Her Go’, illusory boundaries, previously respected by a holidaying couple, begin to break down when, watching her husband emerging from the sea, the wife picks up an urgent call on his mobile phone and looks back over the years of misplaced love.

 

Let Her Go

This is an extract. Read the full short story for free on our website.

 

Your head is just breaking the water when I hear that tedious new ring tone of yours – mercifully muffled by your beach towel. Do you have to bring your phone to the beach? I moaned that morning, We are supposed to be on holiday. You know what it’s like, you’d said, Someone might need a quick comment, a quotable line. I can never be totally out of touch.
What liars we are.
I let that awful, tinkly, tinny tune go through several more ring cycles – less painful, less drawn out than Wagner at least – watch your sea-slicked seal head rise up, watch you turn to look back to the vast expanse of ocean, unwilling to leave this element that is so much your own. Torso fully exposed, now, you wade a few steps, stop once more, turn once more, hands on hips, back to me, looking back. Reluctant to face the deserted beach, no doubt. Your ‘flipper’ feet unwilling to make contact with the desiccated land, unwilling to rejoin the landlubber lying here waiting for you. Although, looking back myself, haven’t I always been the fish out of water.
The caller persistent, I decide to do the unthinkable. Rules, they say, are made to be broken. Though you and I have always prided ourselves on our mindfulness of rules. The concern we have for each other. The boundaries we respect. We have, you could say, made it a rule: a stick with which to measure our so-called easy-going, independent spirits; one we need not beat ourselves up with, since we do stick to the rules. No wishy-washy one-for all, all-for-one sentimentality for us. Oh no. We respect each other’s privacy, each other’s bank accounts, each other’s digital interactions. We two of the Me/Myself/I generation honour each other’s individuality. We are good at holding on while letting go. It was you who coined that arsehole, oxymoron of a phrase. Except, I seem to remember, you said You are good at holding on while letting go. It was back in the days when I was fool enough to take this as some kind of compliment.
I am unmuffling your smothered Blackberry from its multi-coloured cocoon when it comes to me: Who would bother to call, rather than to text you? No one calls you now – except me. And you and I both know I don’t count. All manner of correspondence done, arrangements made with all and sundry, without a single word said by you, heard by me. Who, I ask myself, would be this persistent?  Who would feel a need for such urgency? And, suddenly, in spite of having no warning signs, no reason to expect it, I know who is making the call, know why she is making it.
Meanwhile you are, quite literally, dragging your feet across the sand. Dry land already tiring, already tiresome to you. So much effort a body must make just to stay afloat on boring old dry land.
​           Yes, Izzy, Louise is saying, She’s gone. Too late to do anything. Can I speak to him? Is he there?
​           He’s here now, I say. Louise! I tell you, as droplets of seawater drip from your hair to dot my oily thighs. Lingering there, they remind me of those little golden domes of plastic that keep dropping off the insides of our kitchen unit doors. And I notice several extraneous pubic hairs have escaped my home-waxing treatment. Notice pink pinprick spots left by my home-waxing treatment. While you demand details from Louise: time, place, time before the ambulance arrived. Ask what more might have been done, say what should have been done, who could, should be blamed, sued, shouted at. You appear to almost blame Louise for not being there earlier – she who is there every Saturday afternoon. You exercise your phenomenal powers of outrage, while showing not one smidgen of sorrow.
​           He’s in shock, I tell myself.
​           Bye then, sweetheart, you say, Chin up!
​           And dropping the phone, you reach for the towel and energetically rub your hair with it…

 

Continue reading ‘Let Her Go’ for free here.

 

 

 

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International Day of the Girl 2017 – 8 Books we should All Read

international day of the girl 2017 8 books

International Day of the Girl is celebrated every year on 11 October in order to bring attention to issues of gender inequality and the barriers girls come up against, from birth to adulthood. Here are eight outstanding books we think everyone should read – books which engage with the issues girls and women face, and will leave you empowered with knowledge and eager for change.

Handmaid’s Tale Margaret AtwoodThe Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
Newly broadcast as a celebrated television series, Margaret Atwood’s modern classic, A Handmaid’s Tale, is a story of female subjugation at the hands of a male dictatorship, and the desperate hope of a young woman who cannot obliterate her memories and desires. Everyone should read this masterful story, which re-imagines modern society’s fears and flaws in a narrative at once otherworldly and entirely plausible.

 

The Colour Purple Alice WalkerThe Colour Purple, Alice Walker
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Alice Walker’s haunting novel follows Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Though violent and explicit in its portrayal of the issues facing African-American women in the US, The Colur Purple also has its moments of empowerment and joy, showing that strength can be found even in the most tragic conditions.

Yellow Wallpaper Charlotte Perkins GilmanThe Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s chilling short story was first published in January 1892, in an attempt to shine a light on the devastating impact of 19th century attitudes toward women’s health, both physical and mental. As a form of treatment, the protagonist is forbidden from reading, writing and all other forms of activity so she can recuperate from what her husband, a doctor, calls a “temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency”. With nothing to stimulate her, she instead becomes obsessed with the patterned wallpaper in her confining room, and suffers a descent into psychosis. Short but powerful, The Yellow Wallpaper is an important early work of American feminist literature, illustrating society’s profound ignorance of women’s wants and needs.

Writing Motherhood Carolyn Jess-CookeWriting Motherhood, ed. Carolyn Jess-Cooke
This important book reconsiders Cyril Connolly’s statement, that ‘there is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall’. Through a unique combination of interviews, poems, and essays by established writers, Writing Motherhood interrogates contemporary representations of motherhood in media and literature, queries why so many novels dealing with serious women’s issues are packaged in pink covers with wellies and tea cups, and portrays the exquisite moments of motherhood as often enriching artistic practice rather than hindering it.

A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing, Eimear McBride
Eimear McBride’s multi award-winning debut novel tells the story of a young woman’s relationship with her brother, and the long shadow cast by his childhood brain tumour. It is a shocking and intimate insight into the thoughts, feelings and chaotic sexuality of a vulnerable and isolated protagonist. To read A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing is to plunge inside its narrator’s head, experiencing her world at first hand. This isn’t always comfortable – but it is always a revelation.

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath’s only novel, was originally published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas, just one month before Plath tragically took her own life. The novel the story of a gifted young woman’s mental breakdown beginning during a summer internship as a junior editor at a magazine in New York City in the early 1950s. It explores unsettling themes of depression and is thought (by some) to mirror Plath’s own spiral into mental illness. It is also a feminist masterpiece, unpicking uneasy female stereotypes and despairing at what it was to be a woman at the time.

A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled HosseiniA Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini
This tragic and achingly tender novel follows Mariam who, after a sudden and devastating loss, is sent at the age of fifteen to marry the much older Rasheed. After decades of servitude and oppression, Mariam strikes up an unlikely friendship with Rasheed’s new teenaged bride, Laila. When the Taliban take over, and life becomes a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear, we see a brilliant resilience in these Afghan women, reluctantly brought out by their deep love for one another.

The Beauty Myth Naomi WolfThe Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf
Every day, women around the world are confronted with a dilemma – how to look. In a society embroiled in a cult of female beauty and youthfulness, pressure on women to conform physically is constant and all-pervading. Naomi Wolf’s groundbreaking book will make you think about why and how you judge yourself when you’re stood in front of the mirror. First published in 1991, The Beauty Myth is sadly still all-too-relevant today.

 

 

Happy International Day of the Girl, and happy reading.

National Poetry Day 2017: Recommended Reads

Recommended Reads National Poetry Day

This year National Poetry Day is taking place this Thursday, 28 September, and the theme is “Freedom”.

National Poetry Day is all about enjoying, discovering and sharing poems. With the support of publishers, the Forward Arts Foundation have curated four strong and varied lists of recommended poetry reading, comprising 40 books: anthologies, poetry for children, books for reading groups and current collections.

Seren are proud to announce that not one but two of our authors feature amongst this list of 40: Caroline Smith and Kim Moore. Find out more about their books, and how they tie into this year’s theme, below.

The Immigration Handbook Caroline SmithCaroline Smith’s The Immigration Handbook transforms stories heard every day by the author in her work as an Immigration Officer. Within this collection are heartbreaking scenes of anguish and frustration, contrasts between first and third worlds that prick the conscience, and also occasional moments of humour, of joy: the e-mail address changed to reflect a success, the comical mis-spellings of those learning English, the friendships that arise due to shared difficulties. Above all, The Immigration Handbook offers empathy and hope, with refugees and immigrants who step vividly off the page, emploring the reader to listen to their stories.

The Art of Falling Kim MooreThe quietly devastating central sequence in Kim Moore’s The Art of Falling, entitled ‘How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping’, is the story of a woman embroiled in a relationship marked by coercion and violence. These are close-to-the-bone pieces, harrowing and exact, where in place of love there is posession, and the memory of violence is a haunting presence: ‘when I’m afraid,/ it’s only then I think of him, or remember his name.’ The poetry itself, though, is a means of catharsis, and throughout the collection pulls us like a current towards lighter, brighter things: an imagining of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s childhood mischief; a tattoo inspired by Virginia Woolf; beautifully imagined character portraits of John Lennon, Wallace Hartley and Chet Baker.

Find both amazing books in a bookshop near you!

 

Take a look at the Library of Freedom Poems on the National Poetry Day website, where you’ll find a great selection of themed poems to read.

Join in on National Poetry Day: find out what’s happening near you on the events map. You can also join in the conversation by using the hashtag #NationalPoetryDay on Twitter.

 

 

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Legend of the Month: Owen Sheers

Legend of the Month Owen Sheers

Each month we are celebrating one fantastic Seren author in honour of Wales’ Year of Legends. This month the spotlight has fallen on Owen Sheers, whose stunning poetry and fiction are regular Seren bestsellers.

Owen SheersOwen Sheers is an author, poet and playwright from Wales. His first poetry collection, The Blue Book (Seren, 2000), was shortlisted for the Forward Poetry Prize Best First Collection and ACW Book of the Year 2001. Skirrid Hill (Seren, 2006), his second collection, won a Somerset Maugham Prize and was longlisted for Welsh Book of the Year. Sheers’ debut prose work The Dust Diaries (Faber & Faber), won the Welsh Book of the Year 2005. His first novel, Resistance (Faber & Faber), has been translated into eleven languages.

In 2009 Owen contributed to Seren’s ‘New Stories from the Mabinogion’ series with White Ravens, a contemporary response to the myth of Branwen, Daughter of Llyr. He published The Gospel of Us in 2012 – a novel based on his dramatisation of The Passion for the National Theatre of Wales, set in the streets and clubs of Port Talbot and starring Michael Sheen. Sheers’ latest novel, I Saw A Man (Faber & Faber), was published in June 2015.

We hope you enjoy Owen’s poem ‘Intermission’, from Skirrid Hill, which featured as our Poem of the Month in the Seren Newsletter.

Owen Sheers Intermission Skirrid Hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Find Owen Sheers’ books on the Seren website.

Discover a great selection of books by our other legendary writers on the Year of Legends page.

 

 

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July Book Giveaway: win a copy of The Women of Versailles

July Giveaway The Women of Versailles

You’ll need to hurry, because there are only a few days left for you to enter our monthly giveaway – and this month, the prize is a copy of Kate Brown’s ‘extraordinarily timeless’ debut novel, The Women of Versailles.

To enter, simply sign up to the Seren newsletter before 1st August:
https://www.serenbooks.com/newsletter/signup

Book Giveaway The Women of Versailles


About The Women of Versailles:
The Women of Versailles Kate Brown
Princess Adélaïde, daughter of Louis XV, is at odds with the etiquette of the French court. Adélaïde envies her brother, is bored with her sister and, when Madame de Pompadour, a bourgeoise, comes to court as her father’s mistress, she is smitten, with dangerous results. Adélaïde pushes against the confines of the court, blind to the difference between a mistress and princess, with tragic results. Forty-four years later, under the looming shadow of the revolution, what has happened to the hopes of a young girl and the doomed regime in which she grew up?

‘Dark and rich, The Women of Versailles is filled with political intrigue, sexual awakening, and the roots of revolution.’ – Peggy Riley

 

We will pick a winner at random from all our email subscribers on 1st August. Make sure you have signed up to Seren News before then to be in with a chance of winning!

Why not give your friends a chance to win too, by recommending that they sign up to our newsletter before the end of the month using this link?
www.serenbooks.com/newsletter/signup

 

 

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Summer sale, half-price spotlight: Alun Lewis

Half price Alun Lewis summer sale

Our Legend of the Month’s extraordinary war poetry, short stories, and biographies (written by John Pikoulis) are all included in the half-price summer sale – and the offer ends this Sunday.

Who was Alun Lewis?
Alun Lewis was born on the 1st July, 1915 in Cwmaman. A pacifist by nature, Lewis nevertheless eventually joined the Royal Engineers as World War Two broke out, and later qualified as a Second Lieutenant despite how unhappy military life made him. In December 1942, he arrived at a new station in Nira, India, and in the same year his poetry collection Raiders’ Dawn was published. It would be the only collection published during his lifetime. Lewis died on 5th March, 1944, in what many maintain to be a tragic accident. After his death came the publication of his second collection of poetry, Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets (1945), followed by Letters from India (1946) and In the Green Tree (1948). Most recently, Lewis’ lost novel from the 1930s, Morlais, (2015) has been brought into print for the first time, marking the centenary of this great writer’s birth.

See below for our selection of Alun Lewis titles.

Alun, Gweno & Freda by John PikoulisAlun, Gweno & Freda, John Pikoulis
£14.99  £7.49
Alun Lewis maried Gweno Ellis in 1941, but they were almost immediately separated as Lewis prepared for his deployment with the British army’s Royal Engineers. Alun, Gweno & Freda delves into the charged relationships Lewis maintained with Gweno, and with Freda Ackroyd, an expatriate in India, arguing both were key to his writing and his mental health. The circumstances surrounding Lewis’ death by a single shot from his own gun are illuminated, too, contributing to the ongoing debate about whether this was an accident or suicide.

Alun Lewis Collected PoemsAlun Lewis: Collected Poems, ed. Cary Archard
£9.99  £4.99
Lewis’ remarkable body of poetic work is skillfully brought together by editor Cary Archard. The Collected Poems includes the complete texts of his two published books, Raiders’ Dawn (1942) and Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets (1945), reprinted in chronological order and retaining the important
original section headings under which Lewis chose to arrange and group his poetry. Lewis’s two collections are a remarkably detailed and full account of the experience of becoming a soldier and going to war. As Archard states, ‘no-one can read this collection of poems, together in one volume for the first time, without being struck by how the singularity of his voice permeates a surprising diversity of forms’.

Morlais Alun LewisMorlais, Alun Lewis
£12.99  £6.49
South Wales. The Depression. Choices for young people are limited yet miner’s son Morlais Jenkins seems destined to follow the educational route out of Glannant, despite his lowly background. When the local colliery owner and his wife offer to adopt Morlais on the death of their son, his parents recognise the opportunity for an even brighter future for Morlais. But what price must each of them pay? As the story unfolds through turbulent times in their mining village, Morlais comes to a new understanding of life as he grows from a young boy into a young man.
Founded on vivid and authentic passages of everyday life, Morlais is an enthralling story of place and people and shows what an exciting talent was lost when Alun Lewis died aged only twenty-eight.

Alun Lewis: A Life, John PikoulisAlun Lewis: A Life, John Pikoulis
£8.95  £4.47
From his childhood days in the depressed valleys of South Wales, Lewis felt he had a vocation to be a writer. Pikoulis traces Lewis’s development from the remarkable schoolboy stories written as an unhappy boarder, through his university education at Aberystwyth and Manchester to his return to the valleys as a teacher. Lewis’s poems and stories, authentic and moving, were popular with both readers and critics, catching the tone of the ’phoney war’ years, and later the disturbing but exciting experience of his war in India. His vivid letters home, which have been compared to Keats’ letters, capture both the atmosphere of war and the essence of Lewis’s character, and Pikoulis draws on them to portray a fascinating man and writer.

 

Half price summer sale Seren

 

 

Legend of the Month: Alun Lewis

Legend of the Month Alun Lewis

Each month we are celebrating one fantastic Seren author in honour of Wales’ Year of Legends. This month the spotlight falls on Alun Lewis.

Alun Lewis, the remarkable Second World War writer, died aged twenty-eight in Burma during the Second World War, but produced a vast number of poems and short fiction in the years previously.

Born and brought up near Aberdare in south Wales, Lewis read history at Aberystwyth and Manchester. After a brief period teaching and despite pacifist inclinations, he enlisted in the Royal Engineers. He later joined the South Wales Borderers and was posted to India.

Becoming a soldier had a stimulating effect on Lewis’s writing: Raiders’ Dawn, a collection of forty-seven poems, appeared in 1942 and early in 1943, The Last Inspection, a book of short stories, was published, both to considerable critical acclaim. Lewis died in an accident on active service in Burma in 1944. His second volume of poems, Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets, was published in 1945 and his Indian short stories, together with some letters, in In The Green Tree (1948). Morlais, Lewis’ previously unpublished novel from the 1930s, was published by Seren in July 2015 to mark the centenary of his birth.

Find out more about Alun Lewis’ life and writing in John Pikoulis’ latest biography, Alun, Gweno & Freda, an illuminating account through the particular prism of Lewis’ relationships with his wife Gweno and Freda Aykroyd, an expatriate in India. If you’d like to read Alun Lewis’ poetry, we recommend Alun Lewis: Collected Poems, a body of work which has endured and which transcends the label ‘war poetry’.

 

Find a great selection of books by our other legendary writers on the Year of Legends page.

And don’t forget to sign up to our free, no-purchase-necessary Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us.

 

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Happy Father’s Day

To all Dads, Grandads and those soon-to-be: we wish you a very happy Father’s Day. In celebration, we are happy to announce that all orders placed on our website in the next week will come with a complimentary ‘Dad joke’ to add to your collection.

Happy Father's Day
Mums, children, friends – we are so sorry. Because surely Dad won’t be able to resist treating himself to Mike Rees’ fascinating Men Who Played the Game, which pays tribute to sportsmen who fought in the Great War. He certainly won’t be able to stop himself from getting a copy of Lloyd Jones’ magnificent, newly back-in-print novel, Mr Vogel. And you can try, but we highly doubt you’ll be able to stop Dad from indulging in a little musical nostalgia with Peter Finch’s personal history of rock and pop: The Roots of Rock, from Cardiff to Mississippi and Back.

 

 

So go on Dads, treat yourself.

 

Legend of the Month: Iolo Williams

Legend of the Month Iolo Williams

Each month we are celebrating one fantastic Seren author in honour of Wales’ Year of Legends. This month the spotlight falls on Iolo Williams.

Wild Places – Iolo Williams gIolo Williams has just returned to our TV screens with Trefi Gwyllt Iolo on S4C and BBC’s Springwatch, where in Episode 8 he goes head to head with Martin Hughes-Games, pitting two iconic birds (the barn owl and the kestrel) against each other in a challenge to see which is the ultimate hunter. So what better time to have this nature expert as our Legend of the Month?

Previously Iolo has worked as the presenter of seventeen TV shows, in two languages; he is also an author, and a public lecturer. With a degree in Ecology, he has worked in farming, timber and for the RSPB in the field, and as a regional co-ordinator. Williams is the author of five books in Welsh and two in English: Llyfr Adar, Llyfr Natur, Blwyddyn Fan Hyn a Fan Draw, Cynefin Glan Y Môr, Blwyddyn Iolo, Wild about the Wild, and most recently, Wild Places: Wales’ Top 40 Nature Sites (Seren, 2016).

Wild Places is an ode to the beauty and significance of Wales’ nature places and features forty of Iolo’s favourites, scattered all around the country. From mountains to meadows, coastal sites to towering cliffs, his list takes in all the best of what Wales has to offer, and reveals how to get the most out of each site – where to spot dolphins and salmon, where hares box and otters swim, where to see Wales’ great variety of hawks and other birds of prey.
Wild Places is available from our website: £19.99 (20% off when you join our Book Club).

Meet Iolo at our Secrets of Skomer Island event at the Teifi Marshes Centre, where he will join former Skomer warden and author, Rosanne Alexander, to talk about the island’s important landscape and wildlife.  Tickets are limited, so book now to avoid disappointment:
£5 from The Wildlife Trust website
(all ticket proceeds go to the Trust)

Rosanne Alexander Iolo Williams Skomer event

 

Find a great selection of books by our other legendary writers on the Year of Legends page.

 

 

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Legend of the Month: Ruth Bidgood

Legend of the Month Ruth Bidgood

Each month we are shining the spotlight on one fantastic Seren author in honour of Wales’ Year of Legends. Our selection for April is the poet Ruth Bidgood.

Ruth Bidgood turns 95 this year, and her poetry career spans over five decades. She was born in Blaendulais, near Neath, educated at Oxford, and worked as a coder in Alexandria, Egypt in World War Two. She has lived in mid-Wales since the mid-sixties.

Legend of the Month Ruth Bidgood

She has published fourteen books of poetry, including The Fluent Moment (Seren, 1996), Singing to Wolves (Seren, 2000), and her New and Selected Poems (Seren, 2004). Her twelfth collection, Time Being (Seren, 2009), won the Roland Mathias Prize and was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Her most recent collection is Land Music (Cinnamon, 2016). As well as poetry, she has written a prose book about Wales, Parishes of the Buzzard (Goldleaf, 2000), and published many articles in country historical journals.

Matthew Jarvis writes of Bidgood’s achievement: ‘The heart of Ruth Bidgood’s poetry is her varied and intertwined rendition of the mid-Wales area that she has made her home… Artistically, what she has achieved in such material is nothing less than a mid Wales epic.’

Here is ‘Legacy’, from New and Selected Poems, which featured as our Poem of the Month in the April edition of Seren News:

Ruth Bidgood 'Legacy' New and Selected Poems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Find more of Ruth Bidgood’s poetry on the Year of Legends page, alongside books by March’s featured author, Dannie Abse.

 

 

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