Ravished by Anna Vaught: A nice slice of Gothic spiced with black humour

Cover image for Ravished by Anna VaughtI’m not much of a horror fan but I do enjoy the occasional slice of gothic, preferably something with a slightly surreal edge to it, and a sample short story on Reflex Press’ website suggested Welsh author Anna Vaught’s Ravished fit that bill. Comprising nineteen stories, some so short you might call them flash fiction, there are far too many to summarise but a few favourites should give you a flavour of this idiosyncratic collection.

None of this is what you expected, any of you.

He Looked Back sets the tone with its chilling tale of a man who meets a grim fate on this way home, refusing to heed advice to look only ahead. Not Waving but Drowning sees a careful man take a step too far, seething with resentment about his own diligence. In Love, Now and Then on a Primrose Bank a widow takes macabre measures when the reason for her chilly marriage is revealed at her husband’s funeral. Expert advice from an old hand isn’t enough for a new undertaker in need of consolation in Dead Etiquette while in My Dead Dears and I gentle, respectful Evans the Bodies together with his beloved Myfanwy, struck dumb by the suicides of her husband and their son, prepare the dead for their funerals. The final story, The Unguents of Ada Morgan, sees Ada relishing the freedom young women have to use make up, remembering from her grave her longing to paint her own face and her demands that her respectable husband ensured her corpse had what she could not in life.

It comes to us all, death, that kind of ravishment, and for some of us when we are listening to Tom Jones.

Vaught writes in a very direct style making her stories all the more striking. Overarching her collection are themes of death and ageing. We become acquainted with the preparation of bodies for burial, women lament the loss of their looks taking drastic measures that only diminish them and a once beautiful starlet spits revenge at her ex for abandoning her. There’s a rich vein of black humour running through the collection: I particularly liked the couple, too enamoured of their books, who are smothered under an avalanche of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Many of the stories have a fairy tale quality, more Grimm than Disney, often with a sting in the tail. Her stories won’t be to everyone’s taste but if you’re after something funny, dark and a little bit twisted, I’d recommend them.

If you need more persuasion, there’s a sample piece on Reflex Press’ website and if you enjoy it enough to buy a copy, please consider ordering direct from them. They’re a small independent who also publish the excellent Witches Sail in Eggshells by Chloe Turner which made it on to my 2019 books of the year list.

Reflex Press: Abingdon 9781914114106 106 pages Paperback

11 thoughts on “Ravished by Anna Vaught: A nice slice of Gothic spiced with black humour”

  1. I’m not a horror fan either, but on the strength of your review I’m interested. Reflex Press will have to sort out their website though. Lots of ‘Gateway … Time out’ messages

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