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.

Friday, 15 August 2008

"Skin" by Tobias Hill (Faber and Faber, 1997)

He uses short sentences. At the start of sections one's sometimes disorientated - a fish being cut up isn't the acquarium fish of the previous section but preparation for a meal; nameless people in conversation turn out not to be what the previous section led the reader to expect. He's always ready to pile on detail - "'I'm always well'. He stands for a moment, watching the TV. Catching his breath. On the screen an old woman with dyed-blonde hair and a baby-pram is standing by a blue swimming-pool. Noah can see the shadow of a cameraman on the water.". When he uses the 3rd-persion-privileged voice he's always assured.

The clipped voice is used in several guises. In "The World Feast" a student finds digs and joins in themed feasts. "Losing Track" has another quiet narrator, a closet poet who is killed because he sees a colleague embezzle. "A Honeymoon in Los Angeles" restrains the voice more - an initially reserved S.E. Asian woman speaks as racial tension snaps during her honeymoon in the US.

Less conventional is "No One Comes Back from the Sea", which is told in reverse with sections entitled "December", .... , "June" about the death of twins called May and June. "The Memory Man" brings together a man with perfect recall and a woman with secrets.

"Hammerhead" has an old writer living in a coastal Venezuelan village. "Brolly" is multi-charactered, a social gathering. The 2 novellas, "Skin" and "Zoo" are the best. Both use the whodunnit/quest formula. "Skin" begins particularly well. "Zoo" has an interesting storyline.

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