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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 July 2014
The cover looked like the eye of one of the creatures from "Beyond Dark Waters", another of this writer's books that I loved, so I was keen to get started.
The description of Tom was an endearing introduction to what follows: the importance of personal encounter in our technological age. In "The Smile", there is a touching exchange with an old woman, a stranger, with the words, "at some moments in the past, our lives touched the same stars; sank in the same dark pools of despair"; it is possible , we are assured, to start conversations with strangers, to look into their eyes, to really see.
The poetic "Gateway to Paradise" reads like the song of a homeless man. Once again, Des Birch's passion for the natural world comes through in his analogy of the tree with the homeless person, gnarled and ignored; the "domed canopies of the trees"; the "white shape of a male swan, neck bent back in anger"; the "watery tranquility of the river" etc. I could go on - but you must read this wonderful hymn to homelessness yourself!
The story "One Night in Broadland" had me in thrall from the start and brought back memories of a turbulent adolescence spent in Norfolk. In this mysterious, beautifully written, terrifying tale, the trapped boy wants to flee as the "huge, furry creature looms over him", but fear and panic keep him there. I felt a sigh of relief when he escaped, leaving behind him the stuff of
legends.
I have never been to South Africa, but found the descriptions enlightening about the eleven different languages, the spirit of the Rainbow People after apartheid, and the love and kindness that were possible in the midst of poverty. This writer has a gift for surprising and heartwarming endings, reminiscent of another wonderful short story writer, O. Henry. The reader is left with a feeling of having shared the lives of the characters, their frailties and triumphs.
The tension and dread of Judgement Day builds to a climax that I won't describe: read it and choke!
The Flower Garden is a senstitive story about ageing and loss. A house about to fall into the sea; a widowed old lady sitting amid ornaments, paintings, carvings, "all served as keys to unlock the chambers of her fading memory; all had to go". Transferred to an old people's home, she sits "with sightless eyes and mind untouched by her surroundings". When the housekeeper brings a bunch of cut flowers, "why have you killed them!" the old lady hisses. She finds her own way to move on - I won't reveal that.
There's more: The Last Dance, about how to keep the passion in marriage; and the final story again leads the reader to a delightful surprise ending. Read it and smile.
More please!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 March 2012
I will be reading these wonderful stories over and over again. I love them so much. As a novice writer, I have learned a great deal about writing by reading these stories. I have spoken to Des and found out he never took any writing classes nor read any books on how to write. He is a natural born novelist. Des Birch goes beyond "show, not tell." He is almost poetic with the way he describes the characters and their surroundings. Absolutely love how he prepared the reader for the next story. You are magical, Des Birch and I can never thank you enough for gifting these totally enchanting stories to me. I plan to read everything you have written. ~Rebecca Scarberry
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on 11 July 2014
I was almost put off by the cover of this book but I had it so was determined to read at least part of it. I am so glad I did. The way this author has taken tiny life incidents - such as a smile - and woven (believable) tales around them, I found quite fascinating. I think he must be a student of human nature and this interest, combined with a writer's `eye,' has created something quite special. Do yourself a favour and buy this book - you will be glad you did.
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on 13 July 2014
Being a writer myself, I am always fascinated to learn how other authors write, what they use to jumpstart a story, and what they learn as they observe people. This was very enjoyable and well-done.
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