Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Thursday 7 May 1998

"Hotels like Houses" by Sophie Hannah (Carcanet, 1996)

When Wendy Cope does the same kind of stuff she does it better, and does other things besides. Connie Bensley ("Choosing to be a Swan") is funnier. Even newcomers like Eleanor Brown ("Maiden Speech") are better in places. So why, even allowing for the usual hype, does Poetry Review call Hannah "A GENIUS"? Why does the Acknowledgements page mention the best magazines in the country? Nothing's especially quotable or memorable. That said, nothing's awful either, and if you like a variety of rhyming schemes (I counted over 15), then this is the book for you.

Poems like To Whom it May Concern at the Whalley Range Driving Test Centre are presumably meant to be light and funny, but the humour's too slight. Fair to Say is typical in that it shows the struggles she sometimes has with rhyme: 25 of the 27 lines end with a monosyllable word, and the padding is, at times, generous. The first stanza is

It's fair to say you own a boat. It's yours.
Nothing luxurious. A rowing boat.
First it springs holes and then you lose the oars.
It's when the thing can barely stay afloat
Let alone speed you off to foreign shores -
At that point you no longer have a boat.

which (inevitably) becomes an analogy for a relationship. A wider range of subject matter, a smaller selection of poems and some sharper lines would all have helped to improve the book.

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