Stories from "Vogue", "Good Housekeeper", "Prospect" and "The Guardian". I've heard the title story before - it was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award. I liked it. An interview with "The Independent" says that "Readers should pace themselves (“One story a day or perhaps one a week”), allow stories space to resonate". I don't think that all these stories could fill a day, let alone a week. I wasn't convinced by most of them. I didn't mind the short pieces that edged into fable - "Extra Geography" is pacy, and "Man in the water" ends well. The latter's prefaced by the 1797 painting that inspired it - a fairly rare example of prose ekphrasis. Other stories also extrapolate from events - "The Jester of Astapovo" re-imagines Tolstoy's last day - a film, ("The Last Station" with Helen Mirren) covers the same material. "The Housekeeper" imagines an event in Daphne du Maurier's life.
Sunsets, shores, power-cuts and people's ages frequently figure. In time-honoured fashion, people act and speak unrealistically for the sake of the story. In "Smithy" there's It was as if the land were saying to Smithy, 'There's no explanation in hedges and trees or stones, boy; the explanation is in you.'. And Smithy responds!
- Gerard Woodward (Guardian) (Rose Tremain has always been drawn to outsiders in her fiction ... The story that most forcefully deals with the idea that we live within the boundaries of how others see us is “The Housekeeper”)
- Christian House (Telegraph) (this collection highlights with subtlety and grace just how human it is to get things wrong)
- Boyd Tonkin (Independent)
- Alex Clark (New Statesman) (The protagonists ... are all operating under some form of constraint: social, sexual, emotional, pressingly immediate or far distant, unrelentingly real or garlanded with imaginative flourishes)
- Mary Gordon (New York Times) (A few of these stories — “Juliette Gréco’s Black Dress,” “BlackBerry Winter,” “21st-Century Juliet” — seem rushed or slight or unfinished. But, over all, this is a collection of stylish daring, tonal mastery and smart, tough love.)
- Michael Prodger (Financial Times) (It is all done with an economy that seems effortless but which is the product of years of craft. Her real gift here though is in giving form to the loneliness and melancholy present in every place and every age. ... In the best of the stories, “The Jester of Astapovo”)