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A good beginning and end
on 12 April 2012
I expected much after reading the title story, which is poignant and interesting, but was disappointed by the rather samey themes of subsequent stories. Thereafter, tyrannical mother figures abounded, cruel losses and nasty life lessons repeated like a badly warmed potato.
The style was highly reminiscent of William Trevor, whom I generally find bleak and somewhat unpleasant. There was even a blind piano tuner trapped in a miserable relationship, except he was a blind storeman in Hill's version.
On the whole, Hill is more delicate than Trevor who seems to revel in life's petty cruelties.
The last story is Chekovian as the first
'Antonyin's.': An Englishman is happily entombed in a cold Eastern European peasant-zone and becomes entrapped by an ugly and boring woman determined that he should marry her.
My only question was- why does Hill keep saying he is happy in the first place? Despite boils, indigestion and turnip-smells? His female pursuer seems like an animated turnip herself, a Breughelesque manifestation of the freezing landscape and the revolting food she cooks.
Anyway, no spoilers, it has an interesting denoument.( No, he doesn't make mad passionate mashed turnip with her).
On the whole, this collection is worth reading, but lacks a defined style or voice, all the voices seem borrowed.
But isn't this Hill's forte?
She can out-19th Century Wilkie Collins and Henry James.....