ISOBARS by Janette Turner Hospital

ISOBARS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A new collection of 15 stories from Australian-born Hospital (Borderline, 1985; Dislocations, 1988), sometimes uneven in quality but all with a distinctive voice. Taking her theme from the title story, in which ``particular isobars (imaginary lines connecting parts of equal pressure on a map) connect lines where the pressure of memory exerts an equivalent force,'' Hospital moves back and forth across time and continents as she explores these points of recall. In the most accomplished piece (``The Last of the Habsburgs''), a schoolteacher, because of some past scandal, can teach only in the wilds of Australia, where she relieves the tedium by keeping scrapbooks in which she records past travels and the progress of promising students--like Hazel and Rebecca, who with her once witnessed a crude act of violation by local boys, which taught her that ``the acts of men, even when they are boys, are shouts that rip open the signs that try to contain them.'' Other notables are: ``The Second Coming of Come-by-Chance,'' in which a drought foments apocalyptic fervor and threatens to reveal a community's long- hidden secret; ``The Loss of Faith,'' in which an Australian professor, now teaching in the US, believes he sees his first wife in a crowd and, recalling that time, realizes how much has been lost; and ``Queen of Pentacles, Nine of Swords,'' in which a Canadian woman observes the downward spiral of a doomed Indian woman friend, whose life has been ruined by an arranged marriage. At times the memory-connections theme becomes an irritating constraint, but for the most part these are richly evocative stories, especially of Australia and people defined forever by their past. A subtle and intelligent writer.

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 1991
ISBN: 0-8071-1710-2
Page count: 177pp
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1991




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