All the Beloved Ghosts

In her second collection of short stories, Alison MacLeod explores ghosts, loss and love.

Alison MacLeod

From 1920s Nova Scotia to the London riots of 2011, from Oscar Wilde's grave to the Brighton Pavilion, these exquisitely formed stories capture the small tragedies and profound truths of existence.

Evocative, sensual, and tender, these stories confront reality culture and interrogate our relationship with iconic figures, coming to life at the boundary between reality and fiction. A professor of cardiovascular physiology lingers on the cusp of consciousness as he waits for his new heart to be delivered, still beating, from another body — and is carried on a tidal wave of memories to an attic room half a century ago. Visiting Sylvia Plath's grave in Yorkshire, the author imagines a conversation with the poet, a fellow North American who settled in grey England. She reflects on the treasured photograph of Princess Diana she took as a teenager, one of a multitude taken during a life cut short. And at Charleston, Angelica Garnett, child of the Bloomsbury Group, is overpowered by echoes of the past — all the beloved ghosts that spring to life before her eyes. MacLeod's characters hover on the border of life and death, where memory is most vivid and the present most elusive. (From Penguin Canada)

From the book

It's a cheek for me to say it, but this is no place for you. 'A cheek'. Not our native usage. I know. After all these years, I pick, I choose. English, North American. North American, English. I imagine you did the same. And wasn't it sweet to see Ted, in Birthday Letters, celebrating, not your 1956 Veronica Lake 'fringe', but your Veronica Lake 'bangs', or, if I'm being honest, your 'bang'. A fond concession to our vernacular-even if he got it wrong.

More than once. Couldn't you just swat him with a dish towel and a newly-wed's grin. My what?

Your bang.

Oh, Ted!

I see you smooth your apron and its scattering of tiny red hearts. He winks at you over the Observer, and you turn away, knowing how grab-able your waist looks from behind. You concentrate on your Tomato Soup Cake recipe. Two cups sifted flour. One tablespoon baking powder . . . You long for the reliability of Campbell's condensed tomato soup. You feel wistful at the memory of those bright red-and-white cans which you skated on as a child across your mother's kitchen floor.

From The All The Beloved Ghosts by Alison MacLeod ©2017. Published by Penguin Canada.

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