Aliya Whiteley's The Arrival of Missives was published by Unsung Stories in May 2016.
Information about Aliya Whiteley:
Aliya Whiteley was born in Devon in 1974, and currently lives in Sussex with her husband, daughter and dog. She writes novels, short stories and non-fiction and has been published in places such as The Guardian, Interzone, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Black Static, Strange Horizons, and anthologies such as Fox Spirit's European Monsters and Lonely Planet's Better than Fiction I and II. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice, and won the Drabblecast People's Choice Award in 2007.
Her recent novella for Unsung Stories, The Beauty, was shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson Award and a Sabotage Award, and appeared on the Honors List for the James Tiptree Jr Award. She blogs at: aliyawhiteley.wordpress.com and she tweets most days as @AliyaWhiteley.
Information about The Arrival of Missives:
The Arrival of Missives is a genre-defying story of fate, free-will and the choices we make in life. In the aftermath of the Great War, Shirley Fearn dreams of challenging the conventions of rural England, where life is as predictable as the changing of the seasons.
The scarred veteran Mr. Tiller, left disfigured by an impossible accident on the battlefields of France, brings with him a message: part prophecy, part warning. Will it prevent her mastering her own destiny?
As the village prepares for the annual May Day celebrations, where a new queen will be crowned and the future will be reborn again, Shirley must choose: change or renewal?
A REVIEW OF ALIYA WHITELEY'S THE ARRIVAL OF MISSIVES
Aliya Whiteley's novella, The Arrival of Missives, is a delicate, intelligent and thought-provoking story filled with beautiful and insightful prose. It's a captivating account of a young woman's life and choices in rural England after the Great War.
When I began to read this novella, I found myself deeply impressed by its freshness and uniqueness, because it was refreshingly different kind of speculative fiction. I consider it to be an excellent novella for readers who love the literary side of speculative fiction. It's a rewarding and immensely satisfying reading experience, because the author fluently combines different elements to create a story that holds readers enthralled from the first page all the way to the end.
Here's a bit of information about the story:
Shirley Fearn is a landowner's daughter who has made plans for her future. She is in love with the school teacher, Mr Tiller, who has has suffered an injury that has left him disfigured and scarred. Mr Tiller receives visions and feels that he was guided to the village to the shape the destinies of its residents. After discussing matters with Shirley, he gives her a letter in which he explains things about his life and how he gained the ability to see terrifying visions about the future. He believes that Shirley will be able to help him change the future for the better...
In this story, different elements ranging from love and marriage to family ties and making the right choice are deftly explored within the context of literary speculative fiction. The author seamlessly combines these elements and delivers a story that is in equal parts speculative fiction and literary fiction.
The characterisation is realistic, because Shirley and Mr Tiller are well-developed and believable characters. The author pays attention to their feelings and gradually reveals more things about their lives.
Shirley is an exceptionally intriguing protagonist, because she's a realistic and three-dimensional character with dreams, feelings and thoughts of her own. I enjoyed reading about what happened to Shirley when she found out Mr Tiller's secret and had to think about her life and the choices she could make, because the author kept all threads tightly in her hands and wrote convincingly about Shirley's life.
Shirley is a strong and determined, but vulnerable young woman who has to make choices that will affect her life and also the lives of those around her. It was interesting for me to follow her life, because at first she was an infatuated schoolgirl who had fallen in love with her teacher, but a bit later she became a more mature person who began to think about her choices and their consequences.
Mr Tiller is an important figure in the village, because he's a school teacher. He is not the man he used to be, because a large rock, which has dropped from the skies, has embedded itself in his body. The rock has given him the ability to see visions of the future. This injury has permanently changed him and has affected his view of the world. People who don't know the truth about him and his injury believe that he has been unmanned and isn't a real man anymore.
One of the best things about this novella is that it's a terrifyingly accurate glimpse into what life used to be like for women and what was expected from them. It's amazing how easily the author paints a vivid picture of a young woman who struggles to find her place and tries to break traditions. In my opinion, the author approaches this issue extremely well, because during the early 20th century women had far fewer choices than now and were expected to behave in a respectable way and achieve certain goals (marriage etc) in their lives.
I was deeply impressed by the author's writing skills and choice of words, because she emphasised all the right things and brought the protagonist to life by writing boldly about the various aspects of her life. I found her prose stunningly beautiful and nuanced.
The author has created a spellbinding atmosphere that is further enhanced by her evocative desciptions of the characters and their surroundings. She wonderfully captures the feel of an age gone by with her gently flowing sentences and transports readers to another place and time when life could be predictable and people held certain values in high regard.
If you've ever any read stories by such authors as Nina Allan, Douglas Thompson, David Rix and Allen Ashley, you'll love The Arrival of Missives, because it equals everything that these authors have ever written. I think that we can expect great things from Aliya Whiteley, because she's a gifted storyteller who writes beautiful and evocative prose that is a pleasure to read.
I highly recommend this beautifully written and engaging novella to readers who want to read something different and are fascinated by thought-provoking stories. It's a unique and richly told story that has a lot to offer for speculative fiction readers.