Review of Between Life and Death

A book of short stories by Vicky Peplow

Vicky Peplow won a competition I ran a little while ago. The paltry prize was that I would purchase a paperback copy of her latest book, read and review it. I pride myself on keeping promises and being honest. So with that said, here is my honest review of Between Life and Death – A book of short stories by Vicky Peplow.

I was intrigued to read this book from the cover, which happily is a cover’s function. I really liked the mood of the image. the colour tones almost make the image seem dream like or otherworldly, which made me think I could be in store for something perhaps on the spiritual side of writing. I also can’t help but wonder, as most trees regrow their leaves and their life is cyclical, the endings to these stories aren’t truly endings at all.

This book of short stories varies in length as some tales are shorter than others, but there is a nice balance of realism and the supernatural.

The story that hit me hardest was ‘Angel in Scrubs’, a story about a midwife and the different cases that come with working on a maternity ward. I know from my own experiences the difficulties and complications that can arise from childbirth, and the set up of this story, coupled with the simple final line “a midwife’s day is never the same day twice”, left me with a sinking feeling.

And from there until the final page Peplow explored the gamut of human emotion, tragedy and struggles. She doesn’t shy away from portraying her characters in a realistic light, with all their flaws. Though, she is also sympathetic in her treatment of them. They may be flawed but many have reason or regret. I get the impression that that no soul is unsalvageable in Peplow’s eyes. As long as you’re living, there’s time to change.

A couple of the stories felt predictable in their delivery. The big reveals didn’t surprise me as much as they probably should have. They had the same level of shock value as a Goosebumps book. Now, I love Goosebumps, they were a huge part of my childhood and I am trying to get my eight year old daughter into them too, but the tone of these particular stories that Peplow crafted felt out of place against some of the more mature themes presented in other stories.

Though, I will say this of these particular tales, they had the feel of classic ghost stories, and with a quote from Edgar Allan Poe at the fore of the book, I imagine Peplow is influenced by classic gothic horror. Again, I love Poe, but perhaps it is my love and extensive reading of both Poe and R. L. Stine that made it easier for me to anticipate the progression of these stories. They were still enjoyable quick reads, and a little variety never hurt anyone.

My only truly negative comment is purely personal taste. I don’t much care for sounds being written out. For instance the sound of a rapid fire gun. Reading sections such as, “tap, tap, tap” and “bbbrrrrtttt bbbbbrrrrrttttt” didn’t so much immerse me in the action as it pulled me back to childhood days playing soldier in the schoolyard.

But even here I can find something positive. The juxtaposition of childhood memories evoked from reading a few simple lines in an adult book brings me back to the cyclical nature of life and as I’m fully aware I can never rewind the clock, perhaps I’ll get another go round when my “end” comes.

So, like spring brings new life to winter’s tree, Peplow sprinkles her journeys through life with hope. What could have been a bleak march towards the end is actually a hopeful book on life. Life still to live and life to come after.

I rate this book

Grab your copy of Between Life and Death at Amazon

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