But there is a surprise halfway through: the surreal squeak of a mouse, first-person narrator of a story set in a French villa rented to grousey Angloids, introducing the neo-fantasist bite of the brilliant second half. Here one wonderfully savage story lands us among elderly ex-Fabian picnickers: Celticness and Scotland become spiritual lavatory for pampered English looniness. In another, the widow of a famous war-poet sits on his work and letters, running her little treadmill of a life by in-terior quotes from love-poems only she knows.
The highlight is a hilarious and tender story, "Toddle-Bonny and the Bogeyman", about an irritating dimwit who lays newspaper-cuttings on the double bed in his dead parents' bedroom, relaying local Labour Party gossip into their room before locking it. Aforeign businessman, a "Midas of hard times", has bought the paper-bag factory where his dad once worked. Fifty jobs are on offer, manufacturing deodorised insoles. Question for the nationalists: accept ("Fifty jobs put jam on toast") or censure? The story is a lesson in how to write political, with a gentle face but a Hillyard-like jeweller's hand. Every paragraph here is honed, funny, telling. Pomposity, the English, the poll-tax, hypocrisy, ingratiatingness: there are a lot of targets for the laughs. But every word Dunn writes comes over as profoundly felt.Reuse content