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Twenty-One Locks

by Laura Barton

Barton has an alluring way of creating bleakness. Despite rich imagery and lovely descriptions, the overall effect is one of gloominess. This is the story of Jeannie and Jimmy, heading towards their wedding in a town on the Leeds-Liverpool canal, but are they happy? The overwhelming sense of ordinariness and dullness of the couple, the town, and life in general seeps out of the page, playing on the myth that its 'grim up North' to full effect.

Extract

The doubts followed her everywhere. They stared back at her as she fixed her lipstick in the bathroom mirror, and they were there in the whistle of the kettle and the squeal of the bus tyres and the hiss of the perfume bottle; at night as she tried to sleep they circled her head, like seagulls cawing and diving and screeching above the rubbish tip on the edge of town.

Parallels

True North: In Praise of England's Better Half by Martin Wainwright
 

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