Liviu's Reviews > A Handful of Pearls & Other Stories

A Handful of Pearls & Other Stories by Beth Bernobich
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's review
Jul 23, 14

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2010_release_read, shorts, read_2010
Read from March 09 to 11, 2010

The fourth superb collection I read this year and 2nd published in 2010, A Handful of Pearls stands out by its wonderful, beautiful prose; if it has a theme, it is about strong people who are in a less than privileged position, mostly women in male dominated societies, but not only; it is also about regrets and (sometimes) second chances, with sense of wonder and great characters, while the occasional lighter touches work well too.

Story by story:

Chrysalide (A+)
The opening of the collection gives its tone and showcases its theme with a beautiful story about a painter who has to balance her family duties (her son whose attempts at being gentleman farmer are not quite successful and needs money all the time), her unique artistic gift that comes at a high cost, her secret high nobility lover and the intrigues that come with her fragile court position - all expressed in the process of her painting the portrait of a young beautiful duchess that is the new "star" of the court. The one failing of this story is that it is too short - though it has some 15 pages - for its content which is excellent but would have been even awesome with maybe another 15 pages...

Poison (A++)
One of my two super-favorites from the collection; the story of two siblings who are not quite regular humans; touching, suspenseful and introducing a milieu that is extremely imaginative and interesting and in which i would love a novel or more short stories; here the 40 pages or so allow the scope for an almost perfect story with a great ending which illustrate the power of fiction at shorter length

Remembrance (A+)
A story about two near-future women who are lovers separated by the Mars assignment of one of them who is a security operative, while the other works as a scientist on Earth; new technology allows a much more intimate communication over long distances than usual - at a price - the story is quite predictable insofar where it goes and it also reminded me of one of my all time favorite ss by Tony Daniel "Life on the Moon", but it still haunting and very powerful

Marsdog (A)
The lightest story of the collection featuring the friendship between an alien boy and a robot probe on Mars; imaginative and thought provoking

A Handful of Pearls (A+)
The darkest story of the collection with a very troubled main character who has big issues in his personal relationships with women and tries to immerse himself in work on a distant archipelago; when a strange mute girl is found, his past comes back to life; this is a "sleeper" story that starts pretty conventionally and then it takes a shocking u-turn that I did not see beforehand; dark and disturbing

Watercolors in the Rain (A)
A husband and wife get a second chance late in life when an accident sends them in a magical realm; poetic and imaginative, a story that could find itself in any "mainstream" fiction venue

Medusa at Morning (A-)
The shortest story of the collection makes a good point - "freedom is a painful gift" - but it's too short at 3 pages or so to be fully formed

Jump to Zion (A-)
Slavery, revolution, compromises, freedom... A substantive story that tries to use a different style which is appropriate for the theme but did not work that well for me

Air and Angels (A++)
The other super-favorite and another story that starts making you think it will go one way, only to turn in a very unexpected direction, while the ending is just great with one of the best lines that celebrate "freedom" that I've read recently; a young man of scientific promise - a bit wasted in parties rather than studies abroad - returns to (a possibly steampunk alt) London cca 1900's and meets a seemingly shy retiring girl with an interest in science too; this story is probably the best representative of the collection's theme and I utterly loved it
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