The Arrival of Missives, by Aliya Whiteley, is a serious book and a fine accomplishment: literary, often superbly and enviably evocative, and with interesting things to say about gender expectations, social conventions, and how individuals can become deformed by the pressure to conform.Published by Unsung Stories

Aliya Whiteley’s short novel begins with the sentence ‘I cannot sleep’ and ends with a stirring declaration of intent. In the hundred or so intervening pages we follow the development of Shirley Fearn, a schoolgirl who nurses a love for the teacher at her village school, the appropriately named Mr Tiller, who has been horrifically wounded in the First World War, recently ended (‘He isn’t a real man, of course, not after that injury’, says a village gossip). Shirley’s relationship with Mr Tiller, the exact nature of his injury and what it portends, and her own growth into awareness form the backbone of the novel, which is set in an isolated English rural community. Continue reading