Souls Disturbed: supernatural stirrings in the suburbs

SoulsAlthough the cover art for this collection of three novellas appears quite creepy, the stand-alone stories themselves are far from horrific. Instead they’re set in the ‘soft edges’ of ordinary, everyday English life, where the boundaries between ‘unremarkable’ and ‘unexplained’ can become blurred. Author Kath Middleton uses familiar situations from normal life to explore some intriguing ‘what if?’ scenarios in the twilight zones.

We meet the middle-aged green-fingered gardeners, adding something special from a junk shop to give the illusion that their garden is bigger than it seems… But the images in their mysterious mirror might not be as ethereal as they appear. A teenage girl on the brink of independence comes into her inheritance, and discovers that madness runs in her family. A young couple move to their dream home in the country, hoping to start their own family, but they barely get a chance to settle in before a young child from the village goes missing…

In each of these tales, the past reaches into the present to influence events in one way or another. But the spookynatural side of things isn’t really at the core of the stories. Instead they are about human relationships at pivotal moments in life. What happens in a long-established relationship when one partner suddenly develops a new obsession? How desperate might a young woman feel if she’s unable to conceive a child, and how might her actions alienate the man she believes she loves? And how often are parents guilty of patronising their almost fully-grown children, of discounting their opinions and experiences?

Just as gothic horror and faerie stories provided safe places to explore the situations which stress us, so ‘Souls Disturbed’ take three oblique approaches to real life anxieties – the fear of death or mental illness, of loss and bereavement, of failure and betrayal. Serious stuff. Or you can just read them as straightforward ghost stories, of course…

7/10

Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason

Souls Disturbed by Kath Middleton is available as an ebook

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