The Picador Shots are a great idea and this `shot' from James Hopkin goes down with all the smooth, smokey depth of a well-aged whisky. Both the stories are great, but the first - from which the book gets its title - is especially wonderful. It combines magic realism with some of the grittier realities of life, creating a story that is utterly delightful and satisfying in every way.
Hopkin manages to make the reader love the main character Alina. You feel all her ambition and longing for a new life as well as her love and nostalgia for what she's about to leave behind. The flashes we get of her life - family, lost love, the city where she lives - are masterfully portrayed, brimming with humour and tenderness.
The language in this book is at once playful, teasing and beautiful. The city of Krakow is evoked with gorgeous unexpected details. It's incredible how Hopkin packs so much description and action into these stories and yet manages to keep the prose so light and fresh.
I could go praising this small book but am stopping myself. The beauty of it just leaves you reeling and the depth has you pondering for long afterwards. I felt the same after reading his amazing novel, Winter Under Water. If you haven't read his fiction, you are missing out on some of the best writing being done today. This `shot' is the perfect introduction to Hopkin's work.