Pearl and other stories
The novelist, poet and playwright Julia Darling was born in Winchester but moved to Newcastle in 1980. Her first novel ‘Crocodile Soup’ was long-listed for the Orange Prize while her second ‘The Taxi Driver’s Daughter’ was long-listed for the Booker. She died tragically young at 48 years of age in 2005 but left behind an impressive body of work and this superb collection collects together some of her finest short pieces. These are stories about “ordinary” women - the Marjories, the Hilarys, the Angies - who grew up in houses with “chipped mugs on hooks in the kitchen and pale nylon covers from charity shops on the beds”. But in Darling’s world nobody is ever only “ordinary” and she teases out the essence of these characters in perfectly executed little vignettes, with arresting imagery very much to the fore. A midwife has to fight her way through cheering lesbians to delivery a baby while Amy lets us know that she can tell a good sausage from a poor one just by putting it to her ear. In ‘The Street’ there is “biscuits and gossip, and women’s business to sort out (and I’m not talking about recipe swapping, I’m talking about life and death)” which is a decent summation of what this collection is all about: women’s business that goes way beyond recipe swapping.