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.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Hair loss explained: How and why men go bald
- 2 Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe the Stark may have a twin sister
- 3 Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
- 4 A pint of water every day is the key to losing weight, scientists say
- 5 Russia 'accidentally reveals' number of its soldiers killed in eastern Ukraine
Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe the Stark may have a twin sister
Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
Suicide Squad's Margot Robbie: Jared Leto's now more petrifying when out of his Joker make-up
Novel Scarlett Johansson tried to ban, Grégoire Delacourt’s The First Thing You See, to be published in UK
The Girl in the Spider's Web, David Lagercrantz, review: Stieg Larsson's heroes return in a thrilling new intrigue
Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'
France train shooting: US soldiers speak of the moment they stopped gunman and 'beat him until he was unconscious'
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs