Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fional Kidman's mature short stories satisfy like novels

Fiona Kidman writes with 7 decades of wisdom and skill.

The 11 stories in The Trouble with Fire are wholly satisfying. They range wide and deep, and weave in and out of each other so that one could surely not feel cheated, as sometimes happens with short stories. On the contrary, by the end of the book I felt as if I had lived several lives in several other skins: The Trouble With Fire is as rich and complete as a fine novel.

Fire smoulders and flares here—in peat underground, in a pine plantation, and on the tussocked hills of Lady Barker's sheep station. Obviously, these images epitomize passion that flickers or rampages through the characters' lives. Delicately handled, they're as subtle as the rose petal cover art.

Fiona Kidman is a model of maturity. She knows how people behave: her characters respond to the twists of life in ways that are not rational or predictable, yet seem inevitable. Kidman meets, observes and follows her characters, sometimes through decades.

Her eyes are sharp. Her memory is long. Her words are simple and clear, sometimes lyrical, always layered. Experience has made Kidman wise but not cynical: she retains a fascinated compassion for ordinary people living their lives as best they can, despite extraordinary challenges.

Enjoy these stories. They're a great way to find out first hand why Fiona Kidman is one of New Zealand's most revered authors.