HISTORICAL DRAMA SID SMITH A House by the River (Picador £15.99) 0...

sin iii/r17


Sid Smith is back in China. This st0ry is something of a prequel to his debut tale (the 2001 Whitbread First Novel Award-winning Something Like a House). travelling in time from the context of revolutionary China to the early 20th cenIUry where missionaries linger on.

The sense of rural south west foothills. through which a great river runs. actually lives and breathes through Smith's prose. Spare. exquisitely crafted language conjures smells. sights and sounds to an extent that you imagine Smith grew up on the banks of a vast river. somewhere in early 19005 China. But he didn't. In fact the lads never been to China in either this century or the last. And this book is a remarkable testament to the power of research and imagination.

Following the lives of John and Grace. both cultural misfits in the landscape. the plot (like the river) moves gently. Suddenly racing and then plunging into chaos. A wonderful read. (Ruth Hedges)


(Virago £10.99) 000 Sarah Ouigley has just left me cold. Not cold in a fitful. unnerved way that her storyline might suggest: this is the tale of a young woman shot in a drive-by gun battle. who is then forced to re- examine her life and goals. And not cold in a way that would reflect her depiction of a loveless childhood. brought up by Polish

immigrants struggling to realise their American dream. Just cold in an Ordinary. flat manner evoking in the reader little real emotion and certainly no empathy (Or the characters.

But Shot's stOryline makes a good attempt at pulling the right heartstrings. Six-year-old Lena is thrust on stage by her parents and finds her way into stand-up comedy. before said stray bullet causes a life epiphany. driving her to capture loss through her camera.

Admittedly. Ouigley's flouncy language doesn't help. but it is the unfeeling characterisation and darned self-pity that really niggles. Wonhy but lifeless.

(Maureen Ellis)

DAREDEVIL MEMOIR PHILIPPE PETIT To Reach the Clouds (Faber $212.99)


Philippe Petit has an impressive array of celebrity fans. Robin Williams, Paul Auster, Debra Winger, Werner Herzog and Norman Mailer all hail the man who walked a tightrope, quite literally, between the

World Trade Center buildings in 1974. This act of bravery/insanity almost caused an international incident but certainly incurred the wrath of the NYPD who flung him in cells to conduct a series of psychological examinations. l-le proved his mental wellbeing by balancing a police hat on the tip of his nose.


When the Women Come Out to Dance (Viking £15.99) ooo

Two old folks gabbing in a retirement home. 'He said: "I like the way you wear yOur scarves. You've got style kiddo." "For an old broad? You should see me in a blond Wig."' This IS typically pared-down. slyly comic. naturalistic Elmore Leonard dialogue. Like the Six other shon stories and two novellas that complete this collection. and like so much of Leonard's fiction. this stOry. ‘Hanging Out at the Buena Vista'. is comprised largely of dialogue which speaks volumes.

Readable as Leonard might be. it's hard to get excited ab0ut this new

Look! Sky walker


Petit’s triumph was no small feat. He

towers, until those walls came tumbling down.

In the spring of 1974, Petit was hawking his balancing wares in Paris, just another annoying city centre juggler. Four months later he was the talk of Manhattan, making David Blaine’s projects there look like a stroll in Central Park. The grainy black and white shots taken on the day all add to the sense of nostalgia and spectacle. And there is surely no one who can look at the picture on page 189 of a plane flying over his head

collection of stories. all 'preViOUSIy unpublished in book form' according to the publicity blurb. The reappearance of characters from other books (Karen Sisqo from Out of Sight. iOr one) might thrill Leonard enthusiasts. but this slim volume is for fans only.

By the way. the elderly c0uple in conversation above. looking toward the end of their lives. waste no time getting each other into the sack. (Miles Fielder)


KEITH RIDGWAY The Parts (Faber $314.99) 0000

Dear old dirty Dublin. As literary a City as any in modern fiction. the Irish capital has inspired. frustrated and hurt its writers into a wealth of

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and his bold accomplices had to secretly get up there at night and fix a rope with pinpoint scientific accuracy. A total of 100,000 New Yorkers witnessed the most spectacular sight ever seen in their city’s skies until you-know-when. And the cynical among us may wonder why he took nearly 30 years to pen this memoir; you can’t help but conclude that he had never felt the urge to retell his own encounter with the twin

without several shivers trickling down their spine. (Brian Donaldson)

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poetry and prose. (eating Current writers an awkward legaCy of streets and scenes to avoid.

Mindful of this. Keith Ridgway distills his Dublin thr0ugh the dreams and memories of six intertwming lives. presenting a City expressing anxiety and self-loathing. but also evoking the Dublin of 'a million kittens in a sack. down by the river.'

Funny in places. With DJ Joe and his gay producer Barry seemineg borrowed from Colin Bateman. The Parts nevertheless feels fresh because from rent b0y Kez to death- beckoning Delly. these are self-aware characters who know their own type. recoding from themselves into waking nightmares. Smootth shitting perspectives. this (8 Dublin after a tiny earthquake. half-recalled thr0ugh the drugged-up haze of a b0y selling his body. It is a Dublin of disparate parts. infinitely greater than their sum. (Jay Richardson)


The Piano Tuner (Picador £14.99) ooooo

Edgar Drake (piano tuner. 42. married. no


kids) leads an unremarkable life in 18803 London when he receives an official

summons to tune a grand piano in a Burmese British colony. Edgar has never left England and. although apprehensive. he and his wife decide he must meet the challenge. The inherent mystery behind the summons is added to with the fact it came from the Surgeon-maIOr. His month-long j0urney is beset by pitfalls. and is full of rumours about this ‘poet-soldier' who. through music and culture. single-handedly keeps peace in the most difficult outpost. But inauspicious omens create a growing sense of unease amid the splend0ur. and the real

. reasons for the doctor's

unusual request do not become clear until it is too late.

Daniel Mason's debut is beautifully written. The conversations between husband and wife are especially moving and the touches of magic and superstition heighten the tension. Both fluent and fascinating, The Piano Tuner is simply superb. (Anna Shipman)

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. Creative Writing Competition

Openlnk seeks short stories/ creative non-fiction (max 5000 words) 8: poetry (max 500 words). any theme. for anthology out autumn 2003.

Send two copies to Wellpark Business Centre. Unit l4. l20 Sydney Street. Glasgow. G3l UF. Writers mu5t be Scottish/ based in Scotland. max 2 submissions per person, name & full contact details on separate sheet. send SAE for return of work.

Deadline - March 3| 2003 www.0penink.co.uk

13-27 Feb 2003 I'll. LIST 103