Winter Tales by Kenneth Steven
Thank you for this generous review!
I received a free digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I don’t usually choose short stories fearing that they will leave me wanting more. But something about the title and the cover made me reach for it. It looked wintry and magical. And when I read that the stories were placed in different settings, different countries even, I decided that I had to read it.
After reading the first story, I knew I have chosen well. It was a perfectly shaped slice, it didn’t need anything taken away or anything added. The Cullen Skink was about a fisherman who has lost his son at sea and was helping his widowed wife with the care of their only child. The little boy who has never met his own father became very dear to the old man’s heart.
The next one, Elmeness, was containing all the goodness of a good writing. Really, really short but reach like an essence. A small orphaned school girl Annie was too young to comprehend the whole extend of her tragic situation and was enjoying her summer holidays and her aunt’s baking. Although the first two stories were soaked thoroughly with great sadness, they also bore hope towards what the future might bring.
In The Skylarks and the Horses we meet Dr Aitken who is treating patients with, what we would have called nowadays a post traumatic stress disorder. His patients are soldiers who fought on the front. Despite the large and growing number of the men that come to the hospital, he takes a particular interest in a man called Ruary. This story is longer than the previous two. It was a bit unclear in places who was the narrator describing, or who was speaking, perbaps it could use a bit more editing to make it easier to follow. It was an intersting story but it left me wondering, just like the doctor had, who the patient was and what has happened to him.
Nex one called Lemon Ice Cream was about an Italian family from Sicily who leave their lemon grove behing and head for New York taking with them whatever they could carry, including an old family recipe for lemon ice cream. The author skilfully brings the city into life, the metropoli can be both amazing and frightening. I found this particular story deeply sad.
Through the next one The Song of a Robin, we see the horrifying fate of the soldiers on the fronts during the I World War. Young men, drawn in by various resons, sometimes stories they heard and a promisse of an adventure, had their life changed for ever, often loosing what they treasured most. Even if they managed to survive they were left scarred for life with both physical and psychological wounds.
I liked The Listener. It was a story about a writer who hasn’t written anything significant for the last decade and one day decided to rent a cabin in the rural area of the country, to listen to the nature’s heart beat in hope of finding his lost talent. The descriptions of the wilderness close to the Arctic Circle in Finland where amazing and packed with a great amount of detail for a short story.
In A Christmas Child we meet a fisherman called Angus, who is bracing himself for a long and cold winter with very little luck in bringing any fish. He refuses to be part of the crowd who go and take supplies from a wrack of a ship. They inform him that they won’t share their goods with him, as he is unwilling to help them. In the end it turns out that they bring him something precious after all.
In Out Ronald sets on a long journey after an argument with his brother over a girl. He takes rides from strangers, works on a ship and reaches as far as South America, where he feels homesick and tries to find ways to go back home to Scotland. It was a funny story.
The Gift was a story about a traveller family who has settled in Dublin after they lost their baby boy to pneumonia. They never wished for his sister to share his fate, so they moved into a house to put a roof over her head, to keep her warm. There is another story inside this one, a legend that explains why the travellers feel the pull to move from one place to another. A nice Christmas story.
In The Healing a young monk Sasha asks for the privilige to visit the chapel of St. Lucy that is believed to grant health to the pilgrims. It is not his health he is praying for but his sister’s with whom he had no contact, but feels needs his help.
The next one The Miracle describes a woman called Sonia who out of compassion visits an elderly woman Marie. Marie is an Irish woman and lives in a part of Glasgow that supports Rangers and is hostile towards Catholics. Sonia makes her tea and attends to her needs, trying to make things easier and more confotable for the old woman whose days seem to be counted.
The last story, the longest I believe, called The Ice was about a boy Lewis whose father decided to send him to a bording school after the boy’s mother dies. Lewis comes home for Christmas to the Scottish highlands, where his family lives, and cannot wait for the lake in front of their house to freeze over, so they can cross it to get to their cabin lodge. He is counting the days and dreading the time when he will have to return to his school, where he is bullied by the other boys. This story will take your heart out and wrench it.
Twelve stories, each one very different than the other. I loved them all, some more than the other. Gladly 4 gem stones, frozen lakes or fire logs.
Gem stones, frozen lakes or fire logs rating.
– one of the best books I read
– good read
– disappointed, I thought it was going to be better
– don’t waste your time