'Best Books of the Year' Listings
Toronto Globe & Mail
The Age, Melbourne Australia
The Australian rainforest and the humid American South
are the suffocating backdrop to these 14 brooding, densely lyrical
stories. The stories unfold like poems, compact and mysterious,
with clues buried within.
— Publishers Weekly
*** Hospital, an Australian now living in South
Carolina, uses both continents as settings in this progression of
14 dreamy yet tightly constructed stories about chance, attachment
and disappearance. Stylistically demanding, but unforgettable. This
woman can write.
— Kirkus Reviews
This collection is as rich and tangled as the
Brisbane jungle of which the author writes. These stories hypnotize
with their skillful weaving of opposites – despair and hope,
weakness and strength, emptiness and fulfillment – and set
a new standard for the short story genre that will be hard to surpass.
— Library Journal
Though Hospital's stories are set in such very
different locales as Australia and France and South Carolina, she
gets the sounds and smells right, the grass, trees, building, animals,
all of it. Maybe best of all, she gets the language right. People
talk like where they're from. Hospital has a particularly subtle
ear. Picking up the distinctions of social background and race in
the various cadences and vocabularies of Southerners, for instance,
can be daunting for anyone not born and raised in the region....
To a Southerner, a Texan doesn't sound the same as a South Carolinian.
Even within South Carolina, people who live along the coast sound
different from people from the other end of the state, the foothills
of the Blue Ridge Mountains. ...Hospital does an admirable job of
replicating those language distinctions.
The people in Hospital's stories seem to have
complicated, fully formed existences... Often, they are living in
places they weren't born to; they're out of their native culture
or langue, cut off from the familiar and comfortable. On this uncertain
ground... they grapple with the enigmas of life, relationships,
memory, desire, even natural disaster.
— San Diego Union-Tribune
If anything is capable of restoring your faith
in the power of short fiction, this is it. Janette Turner Hospital's
collection of short stories is a tour de force... and there's no
question this book marks Turner Hospital as one of the genre's finest
exponents.... It isn't the diversity of the stories or their inventiveness
that lingers in the mind so much as their sheer artistry and poise....
Hospital's fiction reads like a quest for the perfectly cadenced
— The Age, Melbourne
Janette Turner Hospital's collection of short
stories is a labyrinth of mind and memory... Hospital presents us
with a savage universe, tales made macabre as everyday life turns
menacing and devours its characters.... Yet in the midst of this
savagery, Hospital treats her characters with a luminous tenderness....
The childhood friends of the opening story, Brian and Philippa,
surface three more times. As Brian's mind disintegrates, Philippa
attempts to curate his life and compute "the odds against solving
the structure of memory which dissolves and devolves and solves
nothing." Hospital's magic lantern dissection of the worlds,
whether savage or tender, is unflinchingly elegant. She takes us
to the four corners but inevitably we return to the "rampant
luxuriant mess" of those tropical Queensland gardens, "always
galloping back into rainforest." Ultimately, it is this return
to the fecund world of possibility that creates whatever illusion
of security she permits her characters.
— Toronto Globe & Mail (lead
fiction review in weekend Book Review supplement)