One of the finest stories I’ve read exploring war and its aftermath. It’s very different from the playful magic realism of Ingalls’ novel Mrs Caliban. Ingalls was inspired to write it after seeing news footage of the 1990s Balkans War. A family return to their home after an unnamed war, finding it wrecked and soiled and slashed and ruined. The father, shellshocked by his experiences as a soldier, finds solace in simple, unexpected pleasures – plucking a small apple from a remaining tree in his garden and remembering his boyhood, when he was “unbroken”, when the trees “brought the loveliness of spring up to the windows and its honey breath into all the rooms”. For the most part, however, this is a harsh, bleak story depicting societal breakdown as the townsfolk struggle to repair their lives. Ingalls captures their descent into desperate brutality in sparse, sober prose.
First published in Days Like Today, Faber & Faber 2000