“So every journey that I make / Leads me, as in the story he was led, / To some new ambush, to some fresh mistake” – Philip Larkin
Carys Davies is a true original. Her collection of short stories, Some New Ambush, materialised in my hands through an awe-inspiring resource: the Trinity College Library. Trinity College, Dublin, was founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592. As well as housing one of the oldest and most beautiful manuscripts in the world (the Book of Kells), it has a copyright library. This means that every time a book is published in the UK or Ireland, the College receives a copy.
It is only recently that I have discovered how valuable this library is as a source of information and entertainment. Needless to say, it causes me unending pain to think of all those thousands of tomes that I will never have time to peruse over the course of my lifetime.
But back to Carys Davies. Her stories are short but shocking, often in a deeply humorous vein. There is a build up of tension in her narratives that makes the scenarios they portray seem all the more darkly comic or unnerving. Her style and the content of her stories reminded me of the work of Flannery O’Connor on many occasions. Amongst my favourite in the collection was the first story, ‘Hwang’, which relates an encounter between two friends in the Barnes & Noble café to discuss their obsession with the local dry cleaner. I also enjoyed ‘Pied Piper’ in its portrayal of a woman finds a baby on a beach and the subsequent disaster at the local school.
I read Some New Ambush during a prolific scone-making phase that I have just seen the back of. They are decadently moorish treats and this recipe (minus the thyme) from Marta Greber’s whatshouldieatforbreakfasttoday are healthy and totally delicious, especially on wet Autumn days. Serve hot with a knob of salted butter, a dollop of raspberry jam and the ceremonial cup of tea in order to enjoy their best effects.