This is another fine collection of short stories, some very short, from Mr Saunders. I've been a fan of his writing for years. It's always hard to say what makes me like or love an author's work, and each author has his or her own "recipe" that works for me, usually with a hidden ingredient or two I can't quite put my finger on. With Mr Saunders, I can say quite clearly that the number one thing is his way with characters. It's such a treat to read about people who live in my mind after the story ends and who make me want to know what they are up to now or what made them the way the appeared in the story. That alone is a major achievement. But then he sets a mood--the mystery ingredient--and in the best of his stories, you fall right in. For both my favorites, Sky Child and Bring on the Dancing Girl, I find myself thinking about the characters and visualize them not just in the story, but in the real world, because in the space of a few short pages, Mr Saunders has managed to make them people--people in whom I recognize something very alien to me and at the same time, something very familiar.
A sample from Sky Child, about a family living in an old monastery and their visitor, Ida: There was toast and homemade jam for breakfast. They sat on benches at one end of the long table near the south wall of the refectory. The big doors to the outside were wide to the sun. Ocatavia and Sigmund deferred to their father when serving themselves and Ida followed their lead. Marius placed the poignant wedge of toenail-coloured cheddar cheese close to his elbow and scoffed it all with a majestic lack of remorse. His bald head had a polished sheen and his two remaining tufts of grey hair stuck out from behind his ears. Ida, Octavia and Sigmund were dressed, but he was still wearing turquoise silk pyjamas under his too-small plaid dressing gown, the sleeves at half-mast.