The Gingerbread Wife by Sarah Vincent
Earlier in the year, author Sarah Vincent was kind enough to offer me a copy of her novel “The Testament of Vida Tremayne” for review. Although I’m not always a fan of modern fiction, I absolutely loved her book, an exciting mix of psychological thrills, myth and a fascinating take on the mother/daughter relationship.
So when Sarah mentioned she also had a slim anthology of short stories, I was very keen to read these – if they were anything like as good as the novel I knew I was in for a good read. And I don’t quite know why it’s taken me so long to get to reading them (life and its demands plus too many books on the shelves I guess) but I finally have – and they’re excellent!
“The Gingerbread Wife” contains eight tales and each is a little gem of storytelling. The subject matter is sometimes a little darker than “Vida” and Vincent’s protagonists often encounter strange and mysterious elements. The title story, for example, is set in an unnamed place, possibly a dystopian setting, where the female protagonist is subject to the attentions of a harsh bone-man trying to mend her back when she would much prefer to see a local woman known as a witch. In “Well-being”, three women artists struggle to get on in a remote retreat near a healing Spring; and “The Centipede” is set in Spain where a woman and her weak husband are being bullied by the husband’s sister into buying a house much against the woman’s will. “The Perambulator”, a chilling little story, features a middle-aged waitress who can see the spirits who follow people around. These are just some of the stories in this varied and wonderful collection, and I was particularly impressed with “Think Big”, a remarkably clever take on a sensitive subject which has a wonderful twist and which I can’t say any more about without spoiling!
All in all, this is a great collection of short pieces, displaying Vincent’s trademark spooky elements, excellent and atmospheric writing plus plenty of punch. The women in her stories are on the margins, struggling with self-doubt and lack of confidence, with outside forces against them in the form of errant husbands or unearthly agencies; however, the women often have their revenge and there’s an undercurrent of humour in the writing too. There’s a quote from author Linda Grant on the cover of the book that I have to share with you which says “this is a writer triumphantly in control of her material, of her style and of her ideas” and I couldn’t agree more.
The short story as a form seems to be making something of a resurgence; I’ve read several good collections this year, and I notice that some of the works here have appeared in publications like ‘Mslexia’ (which I really should check out). Sarah Vincent is obviously a talent to watch and I can highly recommend “The Gingerbread Wife” to anyone fond of short stories, magic realism, ghost stories or just good writing!
“The Gingerbread Wife” can be found here