s ‘a-being. a kind ofatavistic kinship. I an old forgotten crossing ofpaths I along the evolutionary way. ‘You I are edged back into the shadows of l some shared dream . . [For what ! explains the curious sense ofbeing ' greeted by the dolphin As a long-lost friend. . .1"

The short paragraphs of free but carefully cadeneed verse read easily and impress with their vivid descriptions of the Kerry seascape as well as building up the drama of the curious and affecting encounter itself. (Ken Morrice)


Bear Marian Engel (Pandora £3.95) Archivist Lou gets ‘the plummiest job in her life‘. cataloguing the library of an old house on an island in northern ()ntario. She spends the summer there. alone apart from the resident bear who becomes her friend then her lover. This is not a sordid. titillating tale of bestiality. but a woman's exploration of her surroundings and herself and what she wants from life. Both bear and heroine are unassuming. likeable characters. about whom Engel writes with humour and affection. Bear is too short and slight to rank alongside Margaret Atwood's classic novel. .S‘mj/‘ur'ing. but it is reminiscent of it in its themes ofthe rediscovery of the (‘anadian landscape and history. and through them. the self. (Elizabeth Burns)



Hobson's Island Stefan 'l‘hemerson (Faber £1 1.95) As the mysterious Pierrot comments (in his brief appearance). ‘We always think the war will start in Libya. in the Suez canal. in Lebanon . . .we never think it may start on llobson‘s Island.’ And not surprisingly. considering only a fistful of people have heard of the place. so small that it is mapped as a large rock somewhere between north-west France. (‘ork and Land's End.

For years inhabited by a bizarrely self-sufficient and ultimately incestuous family. this pin-head of civilization overnight becomes the focus for a sinister melee of secret agents. a deposed African president. and a cache of poisonous monkeys. while a hush-hush scientist and his high-powered wife bear down upon it on a political collision course.

'l‘hemerson’s writing is both inventive and intriguing. snatches of Morse code and a bar of Beethoven interspersing this amusing parable. His vision is biting and his characterisation sharp. but some of the significance of his complex tale is lost in frayed surreal edges. in half-disclosed events and in unanswered. tantalising questions. (Rosemary (ioring)


Bleeding Sinners Moy Mc('rory (Methuen £11.‘)5);\ woman’s

i .- husband turns into a giant potato overnight: a pregnant girl. ridden with guilt. offers votive candles to the Virgin Mary; a woman fends off an intruder at gun-point whilst she is swamped by the flow of her own menstrual blood: a patient takes her doctor‘s word at face value and completes the process of vanishing started by her ‘cervical erosion‘: these are the startling images Moy McC'rory conjures tip in this powerful collection ofshort stories. It is a world full ofthe harsh realities of ‘ordinary‘ women’s lives. Women who battle on through the onslaught of an unsympathetic and violent society. weighted down by the crushing burdens of childbirth. poverty and religion and who. despite it all. have been invested with a stoic nobility. As one ofthe characters tells her menstruating daughter. ‘lt's a woman's lot so you’d better get bloody used to it‘. And this is exactly what they do. 'l‘ension. tragedy. suspense and humour are brought out through a subtle interweaving of perceptive observations and imagery in these consistently well-written stories. The recurring themes ofconstant childbirth and unending toil in Bleeding Sinners did eventually become too familiar not every woman has given birth to six children or has severe problems with her menstrual cycle but the sheer forcefulness of Me(‘rory's writing is enough to quash anyone‘s

squeamishness at all that menstrual

blood. (Ann Vinnicombe)


Forgotten Life Brian Aldiss (Gollancz £1 1.95) (‘lement Winter. Oxford don and practising analyst. lives a quiet academic life with Sheila. his famous sci-fi writing wife. Then (‘lement‘s brother dies. leaving behind a mass of disturbing material about his childhood and wartime experience with the Forgotten Army in Burma. AsJoseph‘s past is revealed. (‘lement‘s comfortable life is gradually thrown into disarray. This is an intricate tale ofskeletons falling out ofcupboards and in this respect it is a thoroughly ‘English‘ novel. reminiscent of (iraham Swift (though lacking the precision and ingenuity of Swift). But for a novel of such scope. spanning fifty years and three continents. it is extremely well-paced with its characters painstakingly drawn. It is however the section which deals with Joseph's experience in Burma that lifts the novel out ofthe ordinary. (Jim (jlen)


Storia ed. Kate Figes (Pandora £5.95) Smria falls in between a book and a magazine: it‘s an anthology of new short stories by women. an edition of which will appear regularly twice a year.

The stories range from those by mistresses of the art. like Weldon





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76 The List 9 - 22 December 1988