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Fiction Short Stories (single Author)

Notes Towards Recovery

by (author) Louise Ells

Latitude 46 Publishing
Initial publish date
Mar 2019
Short Stories (single author), Contemporary Women, Literary
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2019
    List Price

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Notes Towards Recovery, is a short story collection that explores loss and the spaces around loss. At the centre of these stories are everyday women who must navigate these spaces and their shifting boundaries, often redefining themselves in the process.

About the author

Louise Ells combined random jobs (chef, roofer, co-pilot on a submarine) with years of travel before earning an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University, and a PhD from Anglia Ruskin University. Louise has taught grammar, poetry, and fiction, and presented at academic conferences in London, Cambridge, and Vienna. She works for Cambridge Programmes, teaching at Churchill College, Cambridge, for two weeks every summer. She was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2017. She lives in North Bay.

Louise Ells' profile page


  • Winner, Hawthornden Writing Fellowship
  • Winner, Reading Alice Munro, Research Conference

Excerpt: Notes Towards Recovery (by (author) Louise Ells)


I wonder what's left, if there are any proper cottages around thelake. I see pictures of Muskoka now, its multi-storey mansions withall mod cons: air conditioning, televisions, Wi-Fi, wrap-arounddecks, three-car garages. When is a cottage no longer a cottage? Ithink, and feel old.

I'd like to imagine ours might have survived. The outskirts ofMuskoka. On an island in one of the unfashionable lakes, too farnorth of Toronto. I won't go back to that part of Ontario; I'm notwilling to risk not recognising the area, not willing to risk missingthe correct turn-off. I don't want to discover the gritty gravel roadto the boat landing has been paved and a Tim Horton's has replacedthe chip truck in the nearest town. I choose to keep the cottageexactly as it is in my memory, exactly as we left it.

A 'flood of memories,' people say. I can imagine that, if I drovenorth: my being carried away on the crest of a tsunami, thenpulled under, unable to see through the water's thick, through theonslaught of surfacing memories.

Our cottage was called Lee's Word - a play on my grandfather'sname, Leslie Ward, with a nod to the crossword puzzles he wrote,published every morning across the country, which funded theland purchase and building of the original wood cabin. He seemedto value the pun enough to ignore the fact that his land was on thewindward side of the island. Never mind. It was where my fatherhad spent all his childhood summers and I spent the first fourteenof mine.

Swimming, canoeing, campfires, the occasional bear, loon callsat dusk. Reading novels on the dock, and Mad magazines, andplaying marathon games of Monopoly by coal oil lamp, takingcare not to burn the wick. There is a second-hand bookstore inGoderich I pass when I take my mother out from her care home,pushing her chair along the uneven sidewalks. As soon as the snowmelts, they put out tables of books, and I'll sometimes stop, pickone up and open it, holding it close to inhale the smell of thosesummers. Sunshine and mustiness and shared history. I tried thisonce in the city I now call home, but it didn't work - the seaweedysalt air held other peoples' memories, not mine.

I was five years old the summer Peter was a baby. His crib wasset up in the other tiny upstairs room, at end of the hall, as far aspossible from my own room. Every night he stood up in his criband cried, and I positioned myself in the doorway of my bedroom,watching and standing guard in case he was kidnapped.

To my young girl's mind it seemed possible that someone mightpaddle across the lake in that darkness, dock the canoe and creepalong the path through the woods, scale, somehow, the shingles ofthe cottage to the second floor and open the window to cross thecreaky landing and lift my baby brother from his cot, then repeatthe whole journey in reverse - without alerting my parents whowere sitting in the screen porch downstairs, sometimes reading,more often playing cards with the Jameses. The scent of theircigarette smoke curled up the side of the cottage, along with burstsof laughter, Dick James' political rants, his wife's shush-shushing.

Then, I knew nothing about teething, and because I was soquiet and my parents followed their generation's trend of allowinga child to cry itself to sleep in place of mollycoddling, they wouldnever have come upstairs to see what was wrong and would neverhave known the role I played - albeit inadvertently - in keepinghim awake and prolonging his noise. I knew enough not to godownstairs, not to make a sound myself - bedtime meant bedtimeand the only acceptable naughtiness was reading under the coverswith a flashlight.

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