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Top Customer Reviews
Fantasy features strongly in the title story and "Tiger Mending", but the settings are variously believable and immediately accessible whether they are in Middle-class America or in medieval times.
The more realist fiction in this collection include "The Fake Nazi", which examines a court secretary's growing obsession with a man who suffers guilt for war crimes he did not commit, the bitterly funny shopping mall drama of hapless teenage girl who grapples with her position on the fringes of the 'in' crowd in "Lemonade", the more sober relationship of "The Doctor and the Rabbi", and the powerplay in gender/sexual relations in "On a Saturday Afternoon" and "The Red Ribbon". But even in these stories, Bender's playful wit and creative imagination slip in, especially in "Faces", where a mother is worried that her son's inability to tell his friends apart is symptomatic of a more pressing problem.
A very enjoyable collection that got me hooked from the first (and often startling) words in each story, I finished this book in two sittings, because it was impossible not to be lured into yet another one the moment you glimpse the next page.
When it comes to a collection by the same author, unless they are highly skilful, the reader quickly masters and absorbs the writer's literary tics and style, and starts each new story becoming surer and surer of what the author is doing and will do - a sense of déjà vu sets in, the sense of one story written again and again with marginal variation.
Rare is the author who masters this, who can work creatively WITH the form, again and again, but not be mastered, or stultified by it.
Preamble over - I do believe Aimee Bender IS that master. There is a deft, sure use of precise writing, there are (very different) narrative journeys, the volte-faces are satisfying, the characters individual, Inevitably there are some stories which are close to perfect, others a little less satisfying - but, rare is the novelist without the occasional phrase, character, or event that doesn't act like a sudden stumble, on the reader's eye and ear.Read more ›
While the quality of the writing never wavers, I found the quality of the stories themselves to be somewhat variable. There were some that I felt hinted at a depth that didn't in fact exist, and others that seemed rather pointless and occasionally a little gratuitously distasteful. For instance, the first story Appleless is a beautifully written tale glossed over with an air of magic and mysticism, which in the end fails to disguise that it is fundamentally a rather unpleasant description of a rape. There are undertones in it of Eve and the fall from grace, but the story is too short to have developed these well.
However, to offset against the stories that don't quite work, there are a few that really stand out as very fine examples of the short story form. Here are a couple that I think would make this an enjoyable book for most fiction readers, and an essential read for those with a love of folk, faerie and magical realism...
The title story, The Color Master, is a prequel to Perrault's Donkeyskin, in which a king wishes to marry his daughter and orders three dresses for her, one the colour of the moon, one the colour of the sun and lastly one the colour of the sky. Bender's story takes us to the store where the dresses are made.Read more ›