Possibly my favourite complete work by Steven Heighton. Though Afterlands was a novel I particularly loved, and many of Heighton's poems have dazzledPossibly my favourite complete work by Steven Heighton. Though Afterlands was a novel I particularly loved, and many of Heighton's poems have dazzled and moved me, I find myself ever-admiring his skill with the short story. Here, he is superb throughout. From the first, hilarious and slightly unsettling story of a man struggling with a Japanese phrase book tainted by atomic holocaust; through the tale of a couple who find themselves confronting the flaws in their relationship during a bizarre urban ordeal; to the utterly crackling injured wit in the unsent email of a jilted lover, I was drawn in to every tale. While drawing upon themes of confinement and isolation that arise in much of his other work, Heighton explores a range of modern human relationships as directly and perceptively as anywhere I recall in his writing. I found these stories affecting and ringing with truth. And I was refreshed by the humour throughout--a feature that is sometimes hard to ascribe to much of his other work, hidden as it often is within darkness. Highly recommended! ...more
My daughter gave me a copy of The Long Ships for Christmas on the recommendation of our local independent bookseller. I have just finished it and pretMy daughter gave me a copy of The Long Ships for Christmas on the recommendation of our local independent bookseller. I have just finished it and pretty much loved the whole book! The late 900s was a pretty great time to be a Viking (except when it wasn't). In some ways the book reads like Dickens, with its wry sense of humour offsetting the large scale heroic tones, and bringing a wink to the hairy characters, hairy situations, and generally harried women. But unlike, say, A Tale of Two Cities (which I read for the first time immediately before this book, and also loved), the characters are multi-dimensional. Orm, the protaganist, is wonderfully realized--wise but naive, macho but tender, vengeful but fair, adventuring but a homebody, chiefly but affectionate, self-aggrandizing but generous, wildly brave but a bit of a hypochondriac mama's boy. All in all, very likeably human (and also really, really strong)--a kind of composite of the best of what the Norsemen were. The running theme of religious friction during the period--as Norse, Jew, Christian and Muslim mingle (and take one and other hostage)--is hilarious, in part for the straight-up pragmatic approach the characters take to spiritual matters.
As a basic mark of a good story, while reading it I found myself constantly talking about the characters' adventures and misadventures, and now that I am done, find myself missing the characters. Highly recommended....more
Wonderful story. I have to go back and read the previous book in the trilogy (I didn't know it was one). A vital, wry, utterly "true"-feeling human stWonderful story. I have to go back and read the previous book in the trilogy (I didn't know it was one). A vital, wry, utterly "true"-feeling human story; so refreshing to read a contemporary tale of multi-dimensional Aboriginal people....more
Years ago, I picked a little old hardbound copy of this book off a shelf at my grandparents' house--having never heard of it--and read it right througYears ago, I picked a little old hardbound copy of this book off a shelf at my grandparents' house--having never heard of it--and read it right through in a day or two. Years after that, after my grandfather died, I was going through letters he'd written home during the war, and there was one thanking my grandmother for sending him the book to where he was stationed in England. Just a year ago, I ended up with a new edition, which contained in its end notes and 'extra stuff' pages an add for a "Troops Edition", specially sized to fit in soldiers' rucksacks, and a caption that described its popularity among soldiers. This must have been what the copy I'd read had been. I wondered about the appeal of a book about poverty and struggle through a child's eyes to men fighting in a war a long way from home. I am struck by the way Smith weaves beautiful, fascinating imagery from the threads of poverty and family tensions and a very clear sense of a particular place. ...more