BOOK REVIEW / Death-defying dances to the music of time: Evangelista's fan and other stories by Rose Tremain: Hamish Hamilton pounds 14.99
Sunday 18 September 1994
And it is not a glib virtuosity. Tremain tackles some challengingly grave material. Having explored the physiological as well as emotional implications of transsexualism in her novel Sacred Country, she is clearly an author drawn to medical nuance. Here one little Chinese boy contracts Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease from a growth hormone (which used to be extracted from the cadavers of mental patients) and he wants only to see his sister do her flamenco dancing one last time before he dies. In another story a 60-year-old woman collapses on the street from hydrocephalus and her husband describes how he survives the ordeal of her brain operation by mentally 'ice-dancing' with her - lifting and gliding - for support. The message in both cases is, when your loved ones are struck down, get dancing.
Tremain's geographical and historical range is satisfyingly broad. A French herald describes defeat at the battle of Agincourt alongside his own humiliation on the field of courtship. A bold widow whoops farewell to the world as she flings herself over Niagara Falls. In the title story an Italian refugee to London from Napoleon's wars switches from repairing clocks to making barometers when a hopeless romantic infatuation with a fan-
carrying beauty teaches him that it is preferable to measure what is coming up than to fix what is passing away.
There is a good deal of fist-shaking at old age, the odd sexual initiation (with twins) and the revenge of a jilted spinster by means of votive candle wax. It could be argued that there is an overabundance of cockle-warming and tear-jerking, but this is usually cut with a dash of tart wit.
Seven out of these 11 stories have appeared in anthologies or have been heard on BBC radio, but then recycling is one of the perks of short story writing. And in Rose Tremain's case who cares? It is such a pleasure to have this work collected in one volume.
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Kidnapped boy may have been abused and murdered by VIP paedophile ring,' say police
- 2 Ridley Scott on Exodus, Gods and Kings casting: 'I'm not going to get it financed if my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such'
- 3 Girl, 7, gets Tesco to remove 'stupid' sign suggesting superheroes are 'for boys'
- 4 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 5 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
I'm A Celebrity 2014: Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' close to camp
This house and dental clinic 'piled up like bricks on the brink of collapsing' is why Japan wins at architecture
Ridley Scott on Exodus, Gods and Kings casting: 'I'm not going to get it financed if my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such'
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict