Magazine article The Spectator

In the Bleak Midwinter

Magazine article The Spectator

In the Bleak Midwinter

Article excerpt

Salley Vickers name-checks (surely unwisely) the granddaddy of all short stories, James Joyce's 'The Dead', in the foreword to her first collection, Aphrodite's Hat (Fourth Estate, £16.99). However, the less desirable influence of Roald Dahl seems to preside more tellingly in many of these yarns, which recall Tales of the Unexpected in their predictable twists and spooky presences. Fortunately, Vickers does not stay completely within the formula, and the volume contains a number of sketches about unhappy couples, dreadful mothers and uncared-for children which generally rise above the corniness of the remainder: a feature of the book is that very few of its characters empathise or communicate properly with others, or even understand their own true wishes, giving the whole a dissatisfied, wintry feel (notably, it is December in many of the pieces). …

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