Alan's Reviews > The Scent Of Cinnamon

The Scent Of Cinnamon by Charles Lambert
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's review
Jul 22, 09

really liked it
bookshelves: short-stories, read-in-2009
Read in July, 2009

although the title ‘The Scent of Cinnamon’ may suggest something light and pleasant, and indeed the title story about a mail order bride set at the turn of last century begins that way, you will find the stories here are far from being so. They're mostly tough and punchy, contain hidden meanings and ideas, peopled by complex, believable and not always likeable characters. So wide ranging: from historical (two set in WW2) to bang up to date, gay to hetero- to bi-sexual, realism to supernatural themes, academic to council estate to middle class dinner settings, England to Italy via (possibly) Australia. You never quite know what you’re going to get from one story to the next. One thing though – you’re in safe hands. Lambert is an expert writer, his work telling and beautiful, a great eye for detail, great on childhood (All Gone, Girlie etc) even better on adults and their mixed desires and morals (desire usually winning out over morals) (Entertaining Friends, The Crack).

A couple of quotes from one story (All Gone) might illustrate his skill and power:

(after crapping himself running from bullies): My mother swept out from behind the counter. She picked me up round the chest, then immediately put me down again with a squeal of distatse. I stood in the centre of the shop, the legs of my flannel shorts glued to my innerthighs, their seat to mine. We could all smell it. I knew we could. It was hot and bitter, like tea from the pot.

(a fire): The air above Princess Rd looked like watered silk that night, but hot. As we drove in silence.. we noticed the smell, and then the air itself. My father parked the Humber, and we walked from the shop to the burning paint factory, holding hands as the hot sour wind enveloped us. The sky was fringed with red that licked up into the darkness, chased by a blue that seemed warmer than the yellow of flames, blue as the daytime sky. We could hardly breathe. The evening air smelt like the acetone my mother used to clean her nails, like mechanics' yards, like the boys who lived in the slums; a smell that skinned the eyes and took the words out of our mouths.

A cracking collection, or should that be craic-ing? Very nearly a 5 starrer and probably would have been a few weeks ago but I've been giving too many out lately, trying to rein in. Plus although this sounds perverse sometimes the sheer variety was overwhelming and I longed for a slim more-centred collection, but then I love slim collections like other people seem to like fat novels.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Alan very very good. Not a dud in there. Nearly 5 stars. Proper review will follow (when I get the time)..

message 2: by Jen (new) - added it

Jen Love the cover. Reminds me of Clausen's Pier. But this one is better.

Alan yes it's not very indicative of the stories within though.

message 4: by Jen (new) - added it

Jen I know. The tricky devils...but I can see the genius in the packaging.

The worst case of misleading cover:

Alan ha - Louis L'Amour for women!
The Scent of .. cover is right for the first (title) story, just none of the others.

Charles If I might pop in here, first to say thank you to Alan for such a positive review, and I quite understand why you didn't give me five stars, and second to say that one of the reasons this particular cover was chosen was that it recalls the cover of Little Monsters. Marketing synergies, don't you know, as Bertie Wooster might have said...

message 7: by Jen (new) - added it

Jen I like that cover too. Clever cheek, that synergy. I must be the fish that likes the pretty little bait.

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