I was left a little underwhelmed by MacLeod’s novel Unexploded, but as I can rarely resist a short story collection, I picked up All the Beloved Ghosts. From the outset, I was enraptured. The stories in All the Beloved Ghosts are so varied; each encompasses a different place and time, from a riot in Tottenham, north London, to a story which speaks to the dead Sylvia Plath, who is reposing so far from her childhood home in a Yorkshire graveyard. I very much enjoyed the fact that I had no idea what was going to come next.
McLeod’s writing is beautiful, and deft. Throughout, she uses a variety of different perspectives, and really demonstrates that she knows her characters, and the worlds in which they move, well. One gets the feeling that MacLeod really set out to explore the short story as a genre here; little is repeated from one tale to the next, and a lot of the techniques which she uses are quite diverse.
All the Beloved Ghosts is an accomplished collection, which spans many themes, from death and dying to love and loss; from racial discontent to community. MacLeod’s writing is so strong throughout that there is truly something within the pages of this collection which will appeal to everyone. Nothing feels rushed, or cut off; each story ends perfectly, and there are some interesting ambiguities left in too. All the Beloved Ghosts is not my favourite short story collection, but it has an awful lot of merit, and I am so pleased that I gave MacLeod another chance.