FINALIST FOR THE 2017 GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARDS FOR FICTION
Shortlisted for the 2018 Edge Hill Prize for Short Story
Hovering on the border of life and dealth, these stories form a ground-shifting collection, taking us into history, literature and the hidden lives of iconic figures.
In 1920s Nova Scotia, as winter begins to thaw, a woman emerges from mourning and wears a new coat to a dance that will change everything. A teenager searches for his lover on a charged summer evening in 2011, as around him London erupts in anger. A cardiac specialist lingers on the cusp of consciousness as he awaits a new heart—and is transported to an attic room half a century ago. In an ancient Yorkshire churchyard, the author visits Sylvia Plath's grave and makes an unexpected connection across time. On a trip to Brighton, reluctant jihadists face the ultimate spiritual test. And at Charleston, Angelica Garnett, child of the Bloomsbury Group, is overcome by the past, all the beloved ghosts that spring to life before her eyes.
Precise, playful and evocative, these exquisitely crafted stories explore memory, the media and mortality, unfolding at the line between reality and fiction. Written with vigorous intelligence and delicate insight, this collection captures the surprising joys, small tragedies and profound truths of existence.
ALISON MacLEOD was born in Canada and has lived in the UK since 1987. She is the author of three novels, The Changeling, The Wave Theory of Angels, and Unexploded, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2013, and a collection of stories, Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction. MacLeod is the joint winner of the 2016 Eccles British Library Writer in Residence Award. She is Professor of Contemporary Fiction at Chichester University.
www.alison-macleod.com/ The author lives in Brighton, England.
One of The Guardian’s Best Books of 2017
Shortlisted for the 2018 Edge Hill Prize for Short Story
“If you read only one book of short stories this year, it should be this one… MacLeod obviously loves taking risks—mixing the metaphysical with the mundane—and she is so brilliant at it that she never fails to keep the reader engaged.” —Daily Mail
“Wide-ranging and haunting.. these stories are written in striking prose that seamlessly blends the real with the fictive, tapping into the unknown with compassion and genuine human emotion. A uniquely cohesive collection…these stories are subtly moving and thoroughly engaging.” —Kirkus (starred)
"MacLeod’s collection of stories deftly blends fiction and facts, memory and biography, to delve into the precarious nature of human life… Finely layered and often teasingly opaque, MacLeod’s captivating book of stories presents a diverse array of voices, each as particular as the last." —Publishers Weekly (starred)
“MacLeod blends memoir and fiction to stunning effect in her short story collection, blurring the lines between life and death as she explores the nature of memory…The collection’s haunting prose is by turns heartbreaking and uplifting, transforming the stories’ heavy themes into something entirely unique.” —Paste Magazine, Best Book of 2017
"MacLeod has with this anthology has produced a ground-breaking collection of short stories that strike with such power and tenderness the reader can’t help but be moved by their impact … All the Beloved Ghosts explores the human condition with an unnerving eye for detail; I would challenge anyone to read this anthology and not be moved..." —Storgy Magazine
“Alison MacLeod, the author of the Man Booker-shortlisted novel Unexploded, seamlessly knits together essayistic and imaginative modes of writing in her second short-story collection All the Beloved Ghosts. Historical figures such as Sylvia Plath, Princess Diana, Anton Chekhov and Angelica Garnett rub shoulders with fictional characters and the author herself in a series of emotionally powerful meditations on ageing and memory, sickness and death. MacLeod’s formal sophistication and her impeccably elegant, richly textured prose make this another collection to savour.” —The Sunday Times
“In this new short story collection, Alison MacLeod works with what matters. She never flinches from the real and the present yet she breathes such life into memory that past worlds scintillate on the page. Her prose is urgent, unexpected, and robust, moving effortlessly between time frames and never ceasing to be beautiful. From the description of the foetal heart of Denis Noble (‘a dangling button on the thread of life’ taking shape inside his mother) in 'The Heart of Denis Noble', to Lionel protecting the tube of sperm he carries in his shirt pocket (‘as if he’s cradling a small head against his chest’) in 'There are precious things', to Angelica’s trespassing on a private moment of the ghost of the housekeeper of her childhood years in 'all the beloved ghosts', the prose gives breadth to lives lived, both iconic and ordinary, and helps us understand how we are connected to them. It is a marvellous and unerringly poignant piece of work.” —Michèle Forbes, author of Ghost Moth
“Throughout these stories we’re reminded, with skilful subtlety, of just how much the past is integral to the present.” —Country Life
"MacLeod is a gently playful but fearless writer who explores a range of narrative style. There is little nostalgia in these finely wrought stories of memory, of the inscrutable, insistent presence of the absent." - Atlantic Books Today
“Through nuanced and often lyrical prose, MacLeod imbues cultural figures and events with color and emotional authenticity. Even rumors are swaddled in a luminous believability until they are beyond doubt. Many of the characters in All the Beloved Ghosts are figures lost to the past, including some historical icons such as poet Sylvia Plath, Princess Diana, and Virginia Woolf’s niece, Angelica Garnett. Even the author’s great-aunt makes an appearance as a main character. Resurrected and celebrated through finely honed storytelling, they are spirit made flesh again… They are the current, the mortal—those with heft and presence, an internal monologue, a beating heart and tender parts, and the capacity to love and be loved…[A]n astute and compassionate observer of human nature.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
“This collection’s taut, restrained prose belies bravery, as the author walks a tightrope between fiction and reality. Chekhov narrates his own death, Tony Blair is put under citizen’s arrest (I cheered!), and ordinary men and women have conversations that make a reader want to lean in, as if to eavesdrop. Alison MacLeod’s range and ambition are uniquely impressive.” —Deborah Willis, author of The Dark and Other Love Stories
“MacLeod has an engaged delight in the stuff of life.” —The Times Literary Supplement
“MacLeod knows that life and death, the terrible and the mundane always co-exist--her genius lies in illustrating these truths while simultaneously spinning a bona fide pageturner.” —Daily Mail
“MacLeod's fictions are modern indeed...tender; pierced; translucent...[Her] characters are strong, and they are worth listening to.” —Guardian
“MacLeod’s prose is evocative, densely packed with sensory description, and versatile.” —Quill & Quire
“Short story lovers will devour Alison MacLeod’s evocative all the beloved ghosts.” —Stylist Magazine (Editor’s Pick)
“The stories exercise a hypnotic effect, providing a kaleidoscope of life, colour and anguish.” —Daily Express
"Macleod is playful, engaged, interested in the world about her… We’ll be surprised if there is a better collection of short stories published … this year.” —Bookmunch
“All the Beloved Ghosts is a far-reaching and graceful suite of short fiction… Each piece touches the heart of what it means to be alive.” —The Sydney Morning Herald
A “brilliant gathering of short fiction.” —Booklist (starred review)
“All The Beloved Ghosts is an evocative, masterfully written collection of 12 stories that invokes and creatively re-imagines familial and historical “ghosts”. The stories range from one about the author’s great-aunt set in 1920s Nova Scotia, to tales spun from the public lives of historical and literary icons such as Princess Diana, American poet Sylvia Plath and Russian writer Anton Chekhov. The lines between reality and fiction, and the living and the dead, are constantly blurred. Often it is MacLeod who does the haunting, stepping in and projecting the workings of her imagination onto episodes in these people’s lives… And central to all 12 stories are matters of the heart… Her writing is intricately wrought and moves with incredible subtlety… No word is misplaced: this is an author in full control of her craft.” —The Strait Times
“Compelling characters and pin-sharp insights into their emotional and psychological landscapes are Alison MacLeod’s strong suit … an intriguing blend of domestic realism, the supernatural and leaps of the imagination … These are arresting tales; undercurrents of passion swirl beneath their controlled, elegant surfaces.” —The Lady (Book of the Week)
"An exceptionally accomplished collection, well worth discovering." - Irish Times
“All the Beloved Ghosts, examines the ephemeral nature of human life. The title reflects the many souls that pepper the book’s pages” – Sussex Life