This text is a collection of stories from Helen Dunmore, ranging from Victorian tragedy to the tale of a dinner-lady's love, from the death of a lighthouse keeper's wife to the birth of babies from the Superstock catalogue.
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Helen Dunmore has been described as one of England's "most accomplished literary talents", a writer of extraordinary skill and scope (her third novel, A Spell of Winter, was awarded the Orange Prize for fiction in 1996). The 18 stories included in Ice Cream, Dunmore's second collection of short stories, represent a genuine diversity of viewpoint, period and theme. The opening story, "My Polish Teacher's Tie", is one of the strongest: "I wear a uniform, blue overall and white cap with the school logo on it. Part-time catering staff, that's me, £3.49 per hour." "Me" is Carla Carter, the dinner lady who, to the surprise of the "teachers"--the division between teachers and those who wait on them is keenly observed here--is going to strike up a friendship with a visiting Polish poet. It's a recurring theme: love, or friendship, that comes as a surprise to someone. In "Lilac", a young girl watches her cousin, Tommy, kissing his best friend, Henrik; in "Choosing", the unexpected kiss between two women transports two friends to a new, yet familiar, place: "How did they get here?" There are other surprises--some funny, some anxious--in these explorations of women's lives and experiences. "Leonardo, Michelangelo, SuperStork" is an unsettling vision of pregnancy in a world governed by the ruthless imposition of the ante-natal clinics and the "Genetic Code"; "TheKiwi-Fruit Arbour" explores the language of pregnancy-- "Pregnant. Not pregnant. Mother-to-be. Young girl with her life in front of her"--through the eyes of a working-class teenage girl whose young lover comes from a "good" family.
Living up to Dunmore's reputation for originality, accessibility and flair, Ice Cream is a welcome addition to her fiction. --Vicky LebeauReview:
"* 'A talent to rival Chekhov... a few of the stories are enough to make you laugh out loud; even more are enough to make you weep (for the right reasons)' Sunday Express * 'Cool, elegant and beautifully controlled, the stories in Ice Cream display Dunmore's virtuosity and command of language... this is storytelling stripped to essentials: a series of images that flicker in the mind's eye long after the page has been turned' Independent on Sunday * 'She is a writer who can wrap up artifice in plain, straightforward speech, and evoke summers in the midst of winters of discontent. In these and other particulars, she has proved herself a strong contender for future prizes' Anita Brookner, Spectator"
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