BOOK REVIEW / In brief

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Dr Clock's Last Case and Other Stories by Ruth Fainlight, Virago pounds 9.99. Ruth Fainlight is best known for her poetry, but in this new book she brings a poet's eye for detail to the art of the short story. In the title story a woman answers a quackish advertisement - 'Dr Clock Cures All Ills' - and ends up unbottling her anger in an orgy of violence. But this sort of nightmarish fantasy isn't representative of the collection, which tends towards something far subtler. The early stories deal with childhood memories, crystalline evocations of the past. Another group focuses on decadent expatriate life, including the Mediterranean anguish of a couple reminiscent of the Fitzgeralds. One of the most moving stories charts the breakdown of a middle- aged man when memories of his mother, who died in the Holocaust, return to haunt him. Here, Fainlight's controlled and unsentimental prose excels.