Magazine article The Spectator

A Soft Tread and a Sure Touch

Magazine article The Spectator

A Soft Tread and a Sure Touch

Article excerpt

THE COLLECTED STORIES OF ANGELA HUTH

by Angela Huth

Little, Brown, L17.99, pp. 360, ISBN 0316724599

Short stories are best read one a night just before you go to sleep, and this collection by Angela Huth, which brings together work from the last 30 years, would keep you going for nearly a month. Only two stories are new, but they do not depart from familiar Huth territory, which is small, sometimes comic, emotional dramas, the kind that temporarily shake her characters' personal lives but of which the wider world, often including the progatonists' own families, are only marginally aware. In other words, Huth has an eye for perfect short-story material.

The tales in this collection which show Huth at her best are about unfulfilled longings - a gourmet really does only want an eating companion, a compliant wife suddenly refuses to go on the annual holiday, an old general reminisces about a lost love - and are wistful in tone. Others, for example `Azaleas for Sale' and `Angels Bending Near the Earth', demonstrate an enviable ability to capture in small vignettes the very English quality of `hanging on in quiet desperation' as Pink Floyd once put it. Quiet desperation is a favourite theme for Huth, but it is always varied. She moves easily from the old lady clinging to her collapsing cottage to Reg, with the unspeakable mother, whose hopes of finding romance through the weary Winterstown Concert Orchestra are dashed in a most uncivilised manner. Huth's most memorable characters come from an age just past - the MP's wife with her navy gloves, the irreproachable mother of the charmless bride, the middle-aged ballroom dancer - and all are treated by the author with the tenderness reserved for dying species. …

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