COLD COMFORT by James Loader


Stories of Death and Bereavement
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 An anthology of 21 contemporary British stories about death. A.S. Byatt turns in a long, disturbing gothic tale, ``The July Ghost,'' about a restless man who has moved to a boardinghouse to recover from lost love. His mysterious landlady warms to him slightly when he talks of a boy he keeps seeing in the overgrown garden: It's her son, dead for several years now. But the point is that no one can connect: not the dead boy with his mother, not the unhappy tenant with his landlady, not the landlady with her grief. Old hand William Trevor offers a solid tale, too, about the wild 1960s (``Assia''). Otherwise, these writers will not be familiar to an American audience. And in some cases their stories are too British to translate well, though there are notable exceptions, such as Michael Carson's laconic ``A Worthwhile Undertaking,'' about a gay man obsessed with arranging the funeral of his lover in the cheapest possible way. There's also Eliza Fewett's short, graphic ``The Fat Lady,'' about an enormously fat Greek woman admitted to an emergency room and a doctor's futile attempts to treat her; gravity itself defeats him. Perhaps the most original effort comes from an English poet, Tobias Hill, who lives in Japan. Told from the point of view of a young Japanese woman, Yuko, ``A Honeymoon in Los Angeles'' takes place during the riots that followed the trial acquitting the policemen involved in the Rodney King case. Yuko is unaware, however, of the political context that fuels a burning city; she expects this of America, a ``dying country.'' Missing are true working-class stories (are there no heirs to such writers as Alan Sillitoe?), and nothing here--solid gathering though this one is--could be recommended as therapy for the dying or the bereaved.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1996
ISBN: 1-85242-360-9
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1996