"The countryside – what is it for? A paradise on earth where you can relax and get creative? Or an outdoor wool factory where every other house is an Airbnb and there are fewer trees than Camden. In his new collection of short stories David Gaffney explores the theme of town versus country through a number of different lenses, including his own experience of being brought up in west Cumbria then moving to Manchester.
A creative residency on the coast of Scotland becomes weirder and weirder in “The Retreat”; ‘I’ve always had the feeling that the countryside has something against me and that one day it will take its revenge.’ In “The Table”, a recluse in Penrith uses mid-century furniture to lure city dwellers into a world of ‘depressed farmers with shotguns and bottomless pits of slurry that will swallow you so hard you'll never be seen again. And in “The Garages” the pressure of city living forces a man to become oddly obsessed with empty spaces. Often funny, often haunting, often profound, Gaffney uses dark humour and surreal characters to demonstrate a deep understanding of how places, urban or rural, can shape, influence and sometimes distort our lives. ‘People who like the countryside tend to believe in things that aren’t really there,’ says a character in “The Country Pub”.
These are indeed stories about things that aren’t really there, and this is why they resonate with you long after you have stopped reading."