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Elizabeth Baines was born in South Wales and lives in Manchester. She has been a teacher and is an occasional actor as well as the prize-winning author of plays for radio and stage, and of two novels, The Birth Machine and Body Cuts. Her award-winning short stories have been published widely in magazines and anthologies. Her first story collection, Balancing on the Edge of the World, was published by Salt in 2007. A novel, Too Many Magpies, will come from Salt in November 2009.
Long-listed for the 2016 Edge Hill Short Story Prize What if, in a parallel universe, you made a different choice of lover? What if you've spent your whole life with entirely the wrong idea about your own sister? What do you do if you're trapped in a phone box by a woman who might be a victim, but could have accomplices nearby? What if we're wrong that ghosts come from the past, they come from somewhere else? What if we're only dreaming the life we think we're living? And can your life be changed by a message written by starlings on the sky? In Used to Be, a woman is driven at breakneck speed down a motorway, her life flashing before her, and comes to see that there's never just one story of a life. An eighteenth-century gentleman's certainty is challenged by a strange phenomenon, and a fatality on the line throws into disarray the lives of the passengers of an express train. Black holes and flooding can make us feel that the universe is running away with us and steal our certainty: can we ever say who we are really are? How reliable can memory ever be, and can looking for a ruined castle unlock the secrets of one person's past? Is there ever one real story? In the world of these short fictions, things are rarely what they're first assumed to be. There's always another story lurking somewhere...
This is a book for everyone, whether you furtively snatch your reading time or have the luxury of being able to sink into the welcoming depths of a book for hours. The short stories chosen here, pack in all of the emotions of a longer novel, in fact sometimes you are more affected, more surprised, more energised precisely because one of these talented authors has been able to create such an impact in a few short pages. You will undoubtedly have your favourites in this engaging book and that’s the joy, you can visit the past, different countries, sadness, elation and several will call specifically to you. So savour these snapshots displaying a host of different worlds, dip in and out or sit and gorge to your hearts content. ~ Liz Robinson
Tucked up on the ward and secure in the latest technology, Zelda is about to give birth to her baby. But things don't go to plan, and as her labour progresses and the drugs take over, Zelda enters a surreal world. Here, past and present become confused and blend with fairytale and myth. Old secrets surface and finally give birth to disturbing revelations in the present. Originally published in the eighties, The Birth Machine was seized on by readers as giving voice to a female experience absent from fiction until then and quickly became a classic text. Out of print for some years, The Birth Machine is now reissued in a revised version. It is still relevant today to modern Obstetrics and Medicine, however it is more than that: it is also a gripping story of buried secrets and a long-ago murder, and of present-day betrayals. Above all, it is a powerful novel about the ways we can wield control through logic and language, and about the battle over who owns the right to knowledge and to tell the stories of who we are. The book was dramatised for Radio 4 and starred Barbara Marten as Zelda.
Can we believe in magic and spells? Can we put our faith in science? A young mother married to a scientist fears for her children's safety as the natural world around her becomes ever more uncertain. Until, that is, she meets a charismatic stranger who seems to offer a different kind of power... But is he a saviour or a frightening danger? And, as her life is overturned, what is happening to her children whom she vowed to keep safe? Why is her son Danny now acting so strangely? In this haunting, urgent and timely novel, Elizabeth Baines brings her customary searing insight to the problems of sorting our rational from our irrational fears and of bringing children into a newly precarious world. In prose that spins its own spell she exposes our hidden desires and the scientific and magical modes of thinking which have got us to where we are now.
These are stories about power: children without it and adults vying to get or keep it. A small boy struggles with his parents' divorce, a doctor fails to understand the limits of his medical power, a wronged wife finds a uniquely powerful way to wreak revenge. Sometimes satirical, sometimes innovative and lyrical, the stories home in on those moments when power can spill into powerlessness: the split-second when a self-satisfied teenager is held at knifepoint by muggers, the trip to the woods with the `poor kids' which teaches a small girl she's no better than them. They chart the opposite moments when people wrest back power: a daughter rebels against her violent father, a struggling writer decides to expose a con man arts worker, a little girl who wishes her lost father would come back finds she has magic powers. But it's a slippery thing, power, and these vivid, wry stories spring surprises: for nothing, in the end, is ever quite what it seems.