Life is much like a deck of cards. We have little choice in the hand we are dealt. There’s always a couple of jokers in there, waiting for a good laugh along with the instructions. The queen of spades pierces our hearts leaving the jacks to clean up the mess. And the diamonds just sit back and look pretty while the clubs feel bad about themselves for often being forgotten. We can choose to ether fold or deal. Whatever the cost, this game of life is always a gamble.
Today on the blog I am reviewing Trouble Crossing The Bridge (Published 3rd July 2020) By Diana Powell. A big thank you to the publishers Chaffinch Press for my copy to review, always appreciated.
About The Author
Diana Powell was born and brought up in Llanelli, South Wales. She is the winner of the ChipLit Festival prize, the Allen Raine award, and the 2014, PENfro prize.
Trouble Crossing The Bridge
The characters in these fifteen stories, while separated by time, place, age and gender, are brought together in this collection, making it a melting-pot of personality, voice, setting and plot.
All the characters have been damaged by life in some way – whether by their own psychological problems or by external circumstances such as possessive mothers or abusive fathers. The various ways in which they rise up to meet their particular challenges lies at the heart of all their stories. And they are as diverse as the individuals themselves.
These short stories follow a variety of characters as they trudge through the thick, muddy, murky path that is their nonexistent life. All in the hopes that they will safely cross the bridge up-ahead, despite the troll living under it in wait. They are all casualties of a broken heart that stems from a damaged home. It’s gritty as Powell portrays a realistic world similar to our own. The harsh fact that young children are abused, affairs are sordid and newborns are left in skips like rubbish is all too real as you start asking yourself what on earth is wrong with the world we live in?
Powell’s writing is filled with sounds and noises that overwhelms the reader which creates the illusion of how these tragic characters must feel. Constant voices filling their heads with self-doubt and negativity. When I read Risk Factor it was hard to believe that people would get so worked up for Black Friday but then I remembered they really do. And in worst case scenarios knives and guns have been pulled out, taking lives all over a £200 flat screen. It makes you sit up and think about what actually is important in life. It’s not the material objects but the people. No amount of money or things will ever fix that which is broken.
The ever impending ticking of the doomsday clock is echoed throughout. There is also a strong theme of regret buried throughout these stories. Characters often dream and wonder what life would have been like should they have taken a different path. But do little to change it and become happier.
Powell writes strong, bold images that are at times gory to look at yet tasteful. She combines art and flesh together creating a vision that is hypnotic and disturbing to read. In The Woman Who Never Begs and The Cabinet of Immortal Wonders you can’t tear yourself away despite the shivers going down your spine. Powell creates hauntingly beautiful imagery that shows you how stuffed birds and handless mannequins can be a thing of enchantment. To us they are horrifying but to the artist they are a masterpiece, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The girl in the red dress looks at it, this way and that. Where she ends, and the other begins, it is impossible to see. He has put them together, skin and varnish seeped inseparably; flesh and plaster set fast forever; glue and blood coagulating within. Only the hands – or lack of them – mark themselves as Sula. They give the piece its name. ‘The woman who never begs.’
If only she had killed her.
No matter how much make-up or surgery we have done to ourselves, there’s no escaping the fact that this is the face we were born with. Our face is unique to us because it is the only one. In Watching me Watching you the narrator remembers every single face they have ever encountered. In contrast The Woman who Turned out to be Me can’t remember any face and struggles to recognise herself in the reflection of mirrors. Powell encourages the reader to accept themselves and take pride in who they are and what they look like before they struggle to recognise their own reflection.
One last swab of liquid flesh, and there she is. Another face entirely. She thinks. Already the made-up mask has gone from her mind, wiped away into another kind of bin. No. There is no bin, that’s the problem. There is no storage area for her to file away the faces she meets… even her own.
The lengths we will go to to turn back time on a few wrinkles is astonishing. I couldn’t believe what I was reading in Lifting Nefertiti. The strong belief that a venomous snake bite will help make you look younger. That’s insanity yet the character is driven to this conclusion because of her faded looks and unfaithful husband. Powell plays on the madness that has become self-image and just how far we are willing to put ourselves in danger to smooth out a few lines. It’s shocking but eye opening.
These stories force the reader to take note and have a look at their own lives. In The Warehouse of the Unloved Dead…they meet Hamer who safeguards crates which contain corpses, still clinging onto their valuable possessions. If you have no one to leave your beloved belongings to they often end up buried with you or at the dump. The reality of objects losing purpose and gathering dust demonstrates how in the grand scheme of things they are just junk. We come into this world alone and go out the same, everything else in-between is distractions to the loneliness we all face at the start and end of our life.
‘There’s a saying ‘you come in to the world with nothing, you leave it with nothing’. But nobody wants it to be true these days, do they?’
Hamer closes his eyes, and smiles.
I give Trouble Crossing The Bridge By Diana Powell a Four out of Five paw rating.
Thought provoking and intriguing, Powell’s stories make you think and relate to a world we are all far too familiar with. You feel deeply for her characters that are followed by stormy rain clouds and hold out hope that everything will work out for them in the end. But thats not life is it? Life doesn’t work that way and not everyone gets a happily ever after. It’s a cold hard shock of realism and makes for intense reading.
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