The Trouble With Fire - Fiona Kidman

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A beautiful collection of stories by a pre-eminent writer, shortlisted for major awards.

Eleven long stories make up this collection, linked by the theme of fire. Fire is a dangerous lurking event, which is also beautiful and alluring in its physical manifestation. Like memory, one is never sure when it will catch up with you. In several of these stories, the past captures the mostly female central characters and reveals different aspects of their lives and perspectives on how others see them. The book falls into three sections. In the opening story, “The Italian Boy”, a woman novelist called Hilary is confronted at her house by a friend from her school days. Hilary has her own view of what really happened many years ago, but the friend sees it another way, and still wants answers. Truth is elusive.

The stories that follow in this section are  ‘The history of it’, about an adulterous affair that ends in disaster with wide-ranging consequences, ‘Preservation’, which finds two seemingly respectable friends visiting an old classmate in prison; ‘Extremes’, concerning two women who set off to Australia to have abortions during the 1970s when abortion was illegal in New Zealand, ‘Heaven Freezes’, where an aging man discovers that the grief for his dead wife cannot be easily assuaged by a second, and the final story, ‘Silks’ is that of a writer whose husband falls ill in Hanoi. This second writer narrates her story in the first person and explores the nature of a long and loving relationship.

The second section contains three linked stories. ‘The Man from Tooley Street’, ‘Some Other Man’ and ‘Under Water’, each relating a different version of the same story of a woman’s disappearance in the 1930s, from the view of later generations of the same family.

The final section features two historical stories, ‘Fragrance Rising’ and ‘The Trouble with Fire’. They are based on true stories about an earlier Prime Minister, Gordon Coates, and Lady Barker who wrote Station Life in New Zealand.

Fiona Kidman has a genius for peeling back the lives of ordinary people to reveal their hidden passions and complexities. In this brilliant new collection, she explores - with her customary subtlety and insight - how we are all touched and sometimes scarred by the flames of emotion - whether it be the impossible love of a pregnant woman for a married man, grief for a dead baby or loss of a young woman in mysterious circumstances. Ranging in time from the colonial period to the present day, these stories by one of New Zealand's foremost writers are beautifully crafted, intriguing and evocative.

'[Her] stories remind me of those of Alice Munro. Though they are very much of a time and place they have a universal dimension.' - Booksellers News

Shortlisted for the NZ Post Awards and the Frank O'Connor Short Story Award.

Vintage, 2011 (this copy is a 2012 reprint). 

Condition: secondhand paperback in very good condition. 302 pages.