My enormous thanks to Dave Borrowdale at Reflex Press for sending me a copy of Ravished by Anna Vaught in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share that review today.
Published by Reflex Press on 27th September 2022, Ravished is available for purchase here.
Ravished, subtitled A Series of Reflections on Age, Sex, Death, and Judgement, is the second collection from Anna Vaught. These are peculiar tales, weird fiction, gothic, unusual, full of literary allusion, threaded through with classical and Welsh reference, occasionally starring the author’s relatives and the Virgin Mary. Sometimes funny, morbid, potentially inspiring, Ravished is both revolting and pretty; both awful and yet optimistic in the stress it places on playful language and the abundance of the imagination. The stories explore revenge, angels, an encounter with faith, death and loss and are full of off-kilter experiences, such as a chat with the holy spirit on a bench, a love story in an embalming parlour, passing the time with the man who’s going to bury you and why you should never underestimate the power of the landscape or the weird outcast you underestimated.
My Review of Ravished
A collection of short stories.
Ravished is astonishingly good. Anna Vaught is an amazing author whose prose vibrates with a mesmerising kind of otherness. I was spellbound by this collection and its exploration of those just outside or on the edges of society – the weirdos of the dedication! I think I could reread Ravished innumerable times and discover something new on each occasion. I learnt new vocabulary, made literary connections from Shakespeare to Dylan Thomas and was simply in awe of the quality of Anna Vaught’s writing. She draws in her reader through a conversational tone, through both rhetorical and direct questions, through allusion and through beautiful, poetic, finely wrought prose that is breath-taking.
Each story is so packed with meaning, so filled with themes of love, sexuality and lust, social hierarchy, identity, menace, death, murder and tenderness in balanced, nuanced and frequently wry or witty observation, that reading each one feels like a very special event. Not for nothing is this collection subtitled A Series of Reflections on Age, Sex, Death, and Judgement. Ravished is not a collection to be rushed or taken lightly, but rather is one to savour and enjoy like a perfect morsel of food or sip of the best champagne. I really did think it was a work of genius. This might be a slim collection of fewer than twenty stories but it took me quite a while to read and appreciate, because of the exquisite tapestry of the writing. The writing cries out to be given the reader’s full attention.
Amongst the other themes, death so permeates these pages, from embalming to burial, murder to suicide that Ravished ought to be dismal and depressing. It if far, far from both. The stories are imbued with a respect for humanity, an honesty and a humour that make it feel as if the author is confiding intimately in the reader. I loved the sense of affinity this creates.
Read Ravished and I promise you’ll be astounded. I thought it was amazing; each narrative is a total treat, and I have placed Ravished straight on my list of books of her year. Oh, and you’ll never view a potato in the same way again – but you need to read Ravished to find out why!
About Anna Vaught
Anna Vaught is an English teacher, mentor and author of several books, including 2020’s Saving Lucia and Famished. Her memoir, These Envoys of Beauty, will be published by Reflex Press in 2023, followed by a novel, The Zebra and Lord Jones.
Anna’s work is published in journals, anthologies and the national press. She is a guest university lecturer, speaks at literary and arts events and is a tutor for Jericho Writers, also working as a volunteer with young people who need literacy support.
Anna is from a large Welsh family and lives in Wiltshire with her American husband and three sons. She works alongside chronic illness and caring responsibilities and is passionate about teh role of creative well being.