Friday 13 November 2015
Review by Hannah Stevens of "Used To Be" by Elizabeth Baines
Used To Be (published by Salt, 2015) is a collection packed with bursts of intense short stories, written in clean, sharp prose. The stories are immersive and gripping. I read this book in one sitting.
There is a breathlessness and urgency to the rhythms of this collection and stories are dark and full of damaged people. Most of the characters you will encounter on these pages don’t have names but in spite of this feel knowable: there are parts of me in these characters that I recognise.
The collection is punctuated with disturbing and dark description: in "Used To Be" – the title story – there is a "stomach flat as a teenage anorexic’s." In "That Turbulent Stillness" – "a hole was punched in the… day, and also her heart." In "Where The Starlings Fly" – "the sound of bickering haemorrhaged in." There is violence and wreckage in these stories but ultimately there is an undercurrent of redemption and hope: nothing in this collection is definite and, as in life, there are different and alternative endings and we can choose them.
About the reviewer
Hannah is from Leicester and is a PhD student in Creative Writing at Leicester University. She has a short story collection called Without Makeup and Other Stories (2012) and has had stories published in Crystal Voices: Ten Years of Crystal Clear Creators (2015) and The New Luciad (2015).