Rachel Seiffert

Field Study

‘Seiffert is a writer of great delicacy and toughness…good story begetting good story after good story.’  Ali Smith, The Guardian


A strikingly powerful collection, exploring themes of guilt, love and sacrifice with a haunting emotional precision.

With a range of settings as diverse as the Scottish seaside and post-Communist eastern Germany, to the anonymity of a housing estate in any British town, Seiffert uses her locations to bring her characters into relief.  From a family that fears upsetting their little boy by moving house, to a wife who refuses to accept her husband’s condemnation of his own father, and a student conducting a field study of eastern European industrial pollution, Seiffert captures not only the underlying sorrow of love, but also the joy and desire for this love which keeps us alive.



Cold black tea. Chalky taste of the aspirin mashed into jam and eaten from a teaspoon.  Alice is home for fifteen minutes at lunchtime, keeps her coat on.  She stands her daughter naked by the radiator, washes her down with a flannel and hot water in a red plastic bowl; kneeling next to her clammy body, its awkward joints and dimples, soft belly.  Kim’s eyes are half-closed and she sways as Alice works.  Hot cloth on face and neck, around ears, down spine, between toes and fingers. Hot skin turning cool where the flannel has been.

Kim lies in new pyjamas when Alice leaves for work again.  Under new sheets and tucked blankets, curtains drawn against the day. The slats above her shift and birds’ eyes peep from the mattress.  Beaks and wings.

Kim calls for her mum, but she’s gone now, back down the road.  The hairspray smell of Alice left with her, and Kim is alone with the birds again. They fly out from between the slats, grey wings beating the hot air against her cheeks.

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