A couple of years after DW Wilson, his friend and fellow UVic graduate Eliza Robertson came to UEA from Canada, and was likewise our unanimous choice for the Booker scholarship. I’d taught Dave in the MA workshop and felt we spoke – and wrote – in the same language. Eliza writes – she sings – in quite a different language. I couldn’t teach her; she already knew too much that I didn’t know. Her virtues are relatively easy to list: the density and lyricism of her prose, the surprise of her sentences, the precision of her noticing, the structural adventurousness, thematic seriousness, the obliqueness. The effect is less easy to describe, but Emily Dickinson’s often-invoked poem comes close: “Tell all the truth but tell it slant”, which is what this story does. ‘Who Will Water the Wallflowers?’ is lushly atmospheric, ominous, poetic and strange – and like several other stories in her debut collection, intimate with vulnerability, loneliness and loss.
First published in The Walrus, 2014 and available online here, in Wallflowers, Bloomsbury, 2015