All the Beloved Ghosts by Alison MacLeod is a meditation on death. It’s a collection of short stories where sometimes the principal character is about to die, sometimes they’re evading death and sometimes they’re ruminating on the passing of others. There are moments of brilliance, for instance, the trilogy of short stories written in the voice of Anton Chekhov but largely, this book left me feeling underwhelmed.
For me, the highlight of the collection was Dreaming Diana: Twelve Frames. The opening sentence:
I can admit it now. In 1981, I had the Lady Di. I went to Wendy’s Hair Salon on the Bedford Highway and asked for the Lady Di… On my lap sat a picture of Diana at the London nursery where she worked… I emerged from the Salon looking like a boy. A pageboy.
This made an immediate (and slightly embarrassing) connection with me. In the early 80s, I too went into our local hair salon in Bathurst and asked for a haircut like Lady Di. Of course, no haircut, no matter how brilliant, was going to transform a chubby 7 year old into a radiant princess-to-be. I know that now.