Granta £11.99 (201pp) £10.89 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop : 08430 600 030

Where the God of Love Hangs Out, By Amy Bloom

Amy Bloom's third book of stories (she has also written two the critically-acclaimed novels and a work of non-fiction exploring gender and sexuality) contains two sets of four linked tales and four that stand alone. It's a neatly-organised collection, the four, two, four, two pattern imposing order on the messy, uncontrollable subject matter. The two sequences, in particular, turn on acts of love that disrupt microcosmic social orders.

In the first, two academics, William (obese and unwell) and Clare (thin and spiky), are married to other, more attractive, people. They start an affair that wrecks a long friendship between the two couples. In the second, Julia and Lionel, mutually loving stepmother and 19-year-old stepson, have impulsive sex while grieving for her husband, his father. Afterwards, overcome with guilt and convinced she's ruined his life, Julia sends Lionel away.

There's lots of death and illness in these stories, which spotlight both the close relationship between Eros and Thanatos – wherever Bloom's God of Love hangs out, the reaper's close by – and the fact that shit happens. Nonetheless, life goes on: even for the comatose girl in "Permafrost", who has contracted necrotising fasciitis and lost a leg. One of the joys of these stories is that while sadness invariably endures, misery, depression and the inability to enjoy anything else, generally don't. Except, that is, for the best friend of a murdered girl in the penultimate story, "By-and-by", who reports her friend's murder in forensic detail, then concludes with a heart-wrenching soliloquy that "I don't miss the dead less, I miss them more".

Bloom's writing excels in two areas: first, in the way her lovingly-crafted protagonists, particularly those in first sequence, feel so real. This she achieves partly by letting us eavesdrop on others' opinions. So we learn that behind each other's backs, Clare and her husband Charles call William's wife Isabel, "The Governess", Isabel and Clare call William "The Last Emperor", and William and Charles call Clare "The Cactus" - names which conjure precise images. We overhear the characters in the Lionel and Julia sequence discussing each other's love lives and partners. It's the literary equivalent of stereo recording or holography.

Then there's her dark, impish wit, sharp as the tip of Cupid's arrow. Amid all the death, troubles and agonising, Bloom sneaks in plenty of unexpected and, often, slightly wicked laughs.

During a hiatus in their affair, William visits Clare, who has sprained her ankle. Clare's uncle is also present, recuperating from a bypass op. William finds he can't be honest about his feelings "while she's lying there like the little match girl, and... her uncle David sits before them like a cross between Cerberus and Mel Brooks".

This rich mix of loves, sex, death, humour (and, for some reason, lots of bacon) makes for a profoundly satisfying read. The short story form enhances the pleasure; like savouring a selection of artisanal chocolates instead of guzzling an economy bar of Fruit & Nut.

Lisa Gee's 'Stage Mum' is published by Hutchinson

Arts & Entertainment
TV

Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
music

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit