Sunday 6 August 2023

Review by Lisa Williams of "Scablands and Other Stories" by Jonathan Taylor

The Scablands are vast barren areas in the USA riddled with fissures. A scab is a person that breaks a picket line during industrial action. A scab is hard and unattractive. A scab covers an area that has been hurt, and needs time to heal. This book is not set in America.

Buckle in as we head on this lyrical journey to the Scablands: the stories vary in length, some barely a page, others develop in over thirty. The city setting has a park, shops and even a Lovers Walk. It sounds divine but we soon realise it’s a place "brimful of loneliness" packed with "affection-starved strangers." This is very much a book of "sorrowful voices." Don’t worry - you can buy a hug from a booth for £2 there if it gets a bit much.

There’s suicide, amputation, self harm and ever-unfulfilled wishes. The lonely converge here, but Taylor’s poetic use of language ensures reading is a joy not a chore. His use of humour helps too: a homeless guy talks about moving to somewhere more palatial, and "it might even have walls." There are flickering glimmers of hope for the characters: a university place or a lottery ticket may provide a way out, although the offer of a different life is not necessarily wanted. What isn’t said is important, the gaps the reader completes themselves, asfor example in the poignant line: "A girl eternally eleven."

To take a specific story without ruining the book for you - "Till Life" is a delightful puzzle of a story. It covers the working day of a shop-girl. Taylor piques our interest with titbits like a secret tea-cosy in a pocket. He prompts the reader to question what he’s telling us. We realise things aren’t straightforward when Mrs Parker is more than just a boss and manager. We unpick the peppered little clues, such as an accident, a hospital stay and the necessity of care, in order to reveal the actual story beneath. 

Many of the characters stay with you to the next story. At times, as the story finishes it actually feels like just the start of their story – particularly "A Sentimental Story." An earworm appears in three separate stories; a Dr’s name reappears later on. In my haste to review I’ve read the stories too quickly to decipher links. These characters deserve a less galloped read, which I have already begun.

The images created in these stories linger long after the book has been shut: an Andy Pandy Nightdress, a soldier digging in the mud, a girl on a till trying to pause her life and a biography completely crossed out in red pen. The stories in Scablands may be short, but Taylor’s superb word weaving skill ensures the tales last so much longer than their actual length. 

About the reviewer
Lisa Williams is a creative soul from Leicester. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from Leicester University, and lately tends to write mostly short fiction. She likes the challenge of a word limit – usually one hundred words. Her work has been published in numerous anthologies. Lisa has a weekly story slot on local community radio. She helps out a bit at Friday Flash Fiction and Blink Ink Journal. A regular stall holder at Leicester's new Art Fair, Lisa also sells online as noodleBubble.


  1. An excellent review. If I wasn't already hooked and thoroughly enjoying the read, this review would hook me in :-)))

  2. Your thoughtful analysis and detailed descriptions have piqued my interest in this book, and I'm definitely adding it to my reading list.

    While discussing finance apps and their convenience, I couldn't help but wonder if you've come across the Free Atm For Cash App.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Lisa Williams' review of "Scablands" on your blog. Her insightful analysis and detailed commentary truly make for an engaging read. It's always great to discover new literary gems through well-written reviews like this one.
    can walmart gift cards be used for gas