Alison Moore’s Eastmouth and Other Stories is a beguiling read. Her ability to build the world she transports you to, together with her themes of domestic confinement and calamity are gripping.
In “Eastmouth,” the entrapment of the main character in the gloomy confines of a boyfriends’ claustrophobic family and seaside town is told in such an understated way that the sense of claustrophobia is heightened. A local tells her "You are the Webster girl," and while she denies this, she sees a crowd of locals advancing towards her, who are described as "an army in beige and lilac."
The atmosphere of the characters being trapped or even killed by the places they inhabit grows in each story, and nature colludes too. In “Winter Closing,” the story opens with a sentence that foreshadows the calamity contained in an old house inhabited by Derek. She tells us, "The garden path, on which there was black ice this morning, has been salted to prevent the fracturing of wrists, the breaking of hips, the shattering of pelvises." The malevolence of the house, and the path that leads to it, is placed in the forefront of our minds.
In “Seabound,” a doomed love affair is entrenched in a forlorn house and surrounding landscape. The main character, May, lives in the clifftop house, and is trapped in a hopeless shrine to a teenage lover. As her life passes, the sea is described as "clawing its way towards the foundations of that clifftop house." Despite the risk of it falling into the sea, May ignores her daughters’ exhortations to leave the doomed house. The sea is also somehow calling to her, and in her dreams, she tells us that, "Vast and cold, the sea climbed her bare legs. It was rough but she stood her ground. Sometimes, when she woke from these dreams, the sea was so loud it could have been right there in her room." Only when her dead lover, "a man made of water," and "the seaman," visits her in her dreams, does she answer the call of the sea and she is finally released by one final act of homage to her beloved.
Moore’s powerful depiction of buildings, nature, and the doomed choices of her characters, results in a potent weft of inevitability, calamity, and tragedy, with writing and characters that stay with you long after you have put away her compelling vignettes.