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About the Author

Helen Dunmore has published seven novels, including The Siege, A Spell of Winter, and With Your Crooked Heart (Atlantic Monthly Press), and has been published in 15 countries. She is also a children's novelist, short-story writer, prize-winning poet, and first-ever winner of England's prestigious Orange Prize. She reviews fiction regularly for The Times (London) and poetry for The Observer and Poetry Review. She has also written for The Sunday Times, The Guardian, and The Daily Mail.

Dunmore has acted as a judge for the National Poetry Competition, the Somerset Maugham Awards, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, The Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, the Whitbread First Novel Prize, The Forward Prize, and the Whitbread Book of the Year Award. She is a Fellow of England's Royal Society of Literary and a member of the Society of Authors, Humanities and Social Sciences. She lives in Bristol, England with her family.

Reviews

Having made her reputation on these shores with literary gothic novels (A Spell of Winter, etc.), British writer Dunmore last year demonstrated her versatility with The Siege, a novel of startling realism and clarity, set in St. Petersburg (then known as Leningrad) during WWII. Her second short story collection (the first to be published here) further testifies to the wide range of her interests, imagination and narrative voice. The 17 stories are all quite short and have in common a remarkable ability to encapsulate character, situation and landscape in prose that shimmers with sensuous detail. The most chilling entry, "The Fag," is a variation on The Handmaid's Tale. In a repressive future society, a couple dares to defy the state's Genetic Code for conceiving children. "Emily's Ring" gathers horror as a young girl is doomed to a lifetime of guilt. Life in a small English village is illuminated in "Coosing," in which an abusive bully warns his wife not to apprise the intended victim of his bigotry. Other stories strike a lighter note. It's fun to watch the protagonist of the title story-a woman who's beautiful, thin and famous-succumb to the lure of comfort food. Other narratives portray food as a balm and benediction, or carry a hopeful message of connection, as in "My Polish Teacher's Tie." There's a touch of the surreal in "Mason's Mini-Break," which revolves around an encounter on the Yorkshire moors, and in a parking meter's message in "Be Vigilant, Rejoice, Eat Plenty." Dunmore's touch is light, but her stories slice through her readers' defenses like laser beams. Agent, Caradoc King, U.K. (Jan.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Just as her novels transport readers from heat and sensuality (Talking to the Dead), to a sense of impending menace (Your Blue-Eyed Boy), to piercing cold and gnawing starvation in wartime Leningrad (The Siege), so do these stories offer up a panoply of emotion, atmosphere, and character. Food-both the inability to eat (owing to illness, pregnancy, or anorexia) and the appreciation of or longing for it-also figures prominently. In the delicious title story, a famous model celebrating her birthday fantasizes about the heady perfumes, tastes, and textures of ice cream while her personal trainer exhorts her to stick to her brutal diet regime. In two chilling stories, Dunmore shows that she can move easily between time periods. In "Emily's Ring," set during the Victorian age, an elder sister charged with chaperoning her siblings on a swimming expedition for their health is attracted to a fellow bather and loses sight of one of the youngsters. In the futuristic "Leonardo, Michelangelo, Superstork," couples risk prison terms by purchasing genetically engineered embryos. Dunmore uses her formidable imagination and intelligence to create stories that provoke, unsettle, amuse, and glow. Highly recommended for public libraries.-Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Kingston, ON Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"Dunmore's carefully observed stories demonstrate her ear for language and her eye for the telling moment....Dunmore deftly uses narrative turning points to throw her characters into sharp relief."

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