‘Blood Rites’ by Daisy Johnson

The ancient marshy fens of East Anglia are the eerie, magical backdrop of Daisy Johnson’s debut collection Fen. In ‘Blood Rites’, the fen plays host to three female cannibals. Hunters, they’re almost vampiric as they prowl from place to place, seeking fresh flesh to devour. When locals gather for pints at the Fox and Hound, vulnerable to and yet unsuspicious of the beautiful strangers amongst them, the three women imagine they “would taste like the earth, like potatoes buried until they were done, like roots and tree bark.” The trio relate to one another and the world around them in a distorted reflection of femininity: they shave their legs and think about men, but only because that’s what they must do to survive. They stand outside looking in on what it is to be girls, to be women, and to be human – until something happens that warps their identities irreparably. Johnson has this penchant for taking young, flawed characters and placing them in the dark realm of folklore, and this story absolutely exemplifies that flair.

Published in Fen, Jonathan Cape, 2016. You can read it in The Pool

‘Blood Rites’ by Daisy Johnson

The One with The Sense of Place: 

I could have chosen just about any story from Daisy Johnson’s magnificent debut collection ‘Fen’ and it would be a textbook example of How Your Short Stories Should Have a Sense of Place, but this one is (just about) my favourite.

Three women (Vampires? Monsters?) flee Paris and move into a wrecked house out on the fens, where they start seducing and eating the local men. But it turns out that ‘fen men were not the same as the men we’d had before. They lingered in you…’

Johnson’s story (and the others in the collection) is full of tastes and smells, of earth and dirt and meat, of land and weather and sex. There are echoes of Angela Carter, and Dylan Thomas’s gloriously ripe early short stories, but Johnson is already very much her own writer.

And she writes landscape and place as well as, if not better than, just about anybody.

(In Fen, Jonathan Cape 2016)