Types of Everlasting Rest
by Clio Gray
This amazing collection of short stories is not for the faint-hearted. I picked it up on holiday in Ullapool, north-west Scotland in the fantastic Ceilidh Place bookshop. The weather was (that marvellously descriptive Scottish word) “dreich”*, as only Scottish weather can be, and fitting for the reading of these extraordinary, strange and horrible tales every one of which made me tingle to the bone.
The twenty vignettes are around six to eight pages long with titles such as Always Keep Your Shovel Sharp; The Insanity of Sheep; and the eponymous Types of Everlasting Rest (which won the Scotsman/Orange Award 2006). Each story is more intriguing and disturbing than the last.
The settings range from Italy to Russia in the time of Napoleon to Second World War Czechoslovakia where the story, BP’s Boys, takes place - a heart-breaking tale about boy scouts enlisted by the Nazis into the Hitler Youth to act as messengers and suppliers, some as young as seven.
If I say Clio Gray has a pre-occupation with decapitation (why do you think you need to keep your shovel sharp?), mutilation, blood, guts, and gore it might give you an idea of the nature of these stories. Here’s a taster, the first couple of lines of the first story Nil Sorski & the Walrus. “I’m in the pillory at Cholmogory having just had my ears sliced off. We are one month into winter, thank God, so the cold has numbed the pain. ” Don’t be put off! These stories are about the human condition in all its raw intensity, infused with such incredible detail that the reader is instantly transported to the weird and often macabre micro-worlds of the protagonists. And having said all that, she’s not without a sense of humour as well!
* extremely dreary