Tuesday 15 August 2023

Mahsuda Snaith, "The Things We Thought We Knew"


Mahsuda Snaith is winner of the SI Leeds Literary Prize and Bristol Short Story Prize. Her debut novel The Things We Thought We Knew was chosen as a World Book Night Book and her second novel How to Find Home was read on BBC Radio 4. She was named an "Observer New Face of Fiction." Mahsuda has led Creative Writing workshops in universities, hospitals, schools and in a homeless hostel. She is a commissioned writer for Colonial Countryside and her short story "The Panther's Tale" is included in Hag: Forgotten Folktales Retold. Find out more here.

About The Things We Thought We Knew

On the eve of the millennium, two girls’ lives changed forever. 

Ten years later, eighteen-year-old Ravine Roy spends every day in her room. Completing crosswords and scribbling in her journal, she keeps the outside world exactly where she wants it; outside. But as the real world begins to invade her carefully controlled space, she is forced to finally confront the questions she’s been avoiding. Who is her mother meeting in secret? Who has moved in next door? And why, all those years ago, when two girls pulled on their raincoats and wellies and headed out into the woods did only one of them return?

From The Things We Thought We Knew, by Mahsuda Snaith


I wake up to find my room has been entered ninja-style during the night. Streamers line the ceiling, balloons are taped to the corners in clusters and a giant holographic banner dangles crookedly on the wall. Below it a dozen photographs are tacked in a row. It’s like a museum timeline done on the cheap.  

Photo 1: 1992 - Birth of Ravine (shrivelled new born with too much hair) 

Photo 3: 1996 - Nativity Play (girl dressed as sheep, straw hanging from mouth) 

Photo 8: 2009 - New Year’s Eve (teenager lying in bed, party hat perched jaunty on head).  

If there were an award for the World’s Worst Listener my mother would win hands down. Give her the simplest sentence and watch the cogs of her brain pull in the words, twist them up and spit out a new meaning. You say you want a kitten: she buys you a coat. You say you don’t like cabbage: she cooks seven different cabbage recipes that week. You say you don’t want a party and you wake up to a sight that makes you sweat so heavily your pyjamas glue to your skin and you have to check your knickers to make sure you haven’t wet them. 

I rub my eyes as the smell of onion bhajis floats up from the kitchen. It’s mixed with the heavy scent of citrus breeze air freshener. I hope this is a nightmare. As I prop myself up the twisting of muscles and stabbing pain along my arm confirm the truth. This was real.

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