My old man was a lorry driver, back in the eighties.
– Opening sentence
Hollow Shores is the debut collection of intertwined short stories by writer Gary Budden, combining psychogeography, history, nature, punk sub-culture and more.
In the acknowledgements, Budden writes, “A massive thanks to Nathan Connolly at Dead Ink for taking a punt on what he described as ‘a really weird book’.”
“Really weird” is definitely one way to describe this collection, but I would prefer to choose enchanting, haunting or melancholic instead. Indeed, I’ve never read anything like it (and probably won’t again).
All these stories are centred between the stretch of coast between Norfolk and Kent, including the Thames estuaries, known as the ‘Hollow Shores’. Where fiction mingles with fact, Budden made me nostalgic for a place I’ve never actually visited.
As the various characters deal with themes of loss, change, relationships, self-enlightenment, home and family, they all share a connection with the salty marshes of the Hollow Shores, and I felt a desperate urge to book a solitary weekend where I too could walk along those marshes, looking out for the birds (a common theme throughout) and contemplating my life.
You get the sense that the author really knows, loves and respects the places he’s describing. Sometimes, when an author is describing a place – whether real or fictional – it doesn’t feel honest, or real. With Budden, however, you truly believe.
There was, however, one chapter that seemed a little bit out of place. All the characters and their storylines were believable, expect in Chapter 8, Shells Grottoes, where I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on.
In this chapter, we are introduced to the vampire hunter and his ‘friend of a lifetime’, the vampire. I was so confused by this chapter that I read it twice, but I still can’t say that I understand it (I guess this is where the “weird” comes in). Myths and folklore are touched upon throughout the collection, but this is the only chapter which is so bold about it. Is it just a metaphor? Did Budden include it to deliberate make the reader stop and think? The book doesn’t gain anything from its inclusion, but I suppose it doesn’t lose anything either (If you’ve read this, I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments).
Hollow Shores is the perfect autumnal read. It drew me in so much that I could almost feel the mist on my face, hear the waves and gulls and feel the mud beneath my feet. It’s a book that genuinely absorbed me, and one that will stay with me for a while.(5 / 5)
I know that memory is a marsh, and we are all sinking.
– Final sentence