Ox-Tales: Water by Oxfam

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Ox-Tales: Water by Oxfam

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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A competent mix of appealing short stories, intriguing extracts from novels soon to some, and a little bonus for the charity success this book should become.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: July 2009
Publisher: Profile Green
ISBN: 978-1846682063

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I don't do charity. Call me a curmudgeon, but I will never give a book more stars just because it is in aid of some world-saving charity. You see that box - out down right of here, where the Bookbag tells you whether a book is worth buying or otherwise reading? That will never be bumped up in status just because of the book's fund-raising concerns. But surely when a book features new and unpublished writing from Zoe Heller, William Boyd, and Michel Faber and offers an alternative ending to one of the literary hits of the season, surely it doesn't need a fillup?

Oxfam and their friends have got together to give us four little books, each themed around one of the classic elements. This is a marked step up when it comes to quality, aptness, and the unpublished status of the works, making this a valuable volume, for today and beyond.

We kick off with Esther Freud, and while her work is flagged as from a novel in progress, this certainly works as a short story itself, and is an enjoyable look at a wannabe in Hollywood with his family. A four star read at least. Nearly matching that is a short story from David Park, who was new to me, but gave an interesting look at the life in 2009 of the ferryman of the dead. Hari Kunzru's is at least bearing some semblance of the Oxfam ethos, centred as it is in a meeting of drugs developers.

The highlight here for many will be a new work by Zoe Heller. The answer to the question of her story's title – What she did on her summer vacation – is the blunt grew up, but this is an engaging and unsettling little success. Yes, we lose the theme of water to some extent, but it's a dialogue-driven short that worked for me.

The Michel Faber here is merely a taster from some semi-sci-fi novel to come, a teaser trailer for works elsewhere. Likewise the Joanna Trollope sets up her next novel, and I'm sure water didn't come into it at all, but it had some merit as far as these adverts go. Michael Morpurgo takes the beginning of a novel due in less than two months.

Which makes the Giles Foden here perhaps even more appealing. I found room for improvement in Turbulence, but Foden here gives us an unseen alternative ending – taking his framing story to places the book never went. I dare say it's the nature of publishing this might be restored in some future director's cut edition of the novel, but for now this adds kudos to this collection.

And it certainly doesn't harm the quality of this edition, where the authors give us variety, drama, strong characters in unexpected circumstances. This then is one little book whose merits include entertainment for us, as well as charitable benefit.

I must thank Profile Books for my review copy.

For fans of the short format, we can still recommend The Museum of Doctor Moses by Joyce Carol Oates. For more Ox-Tales your might like Fire.

Buy Ox-Tales: Water by Oxfam at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ox-Tales: Water by Oxfam at Amazon.co.uk

Buy Ox-Tales: Water by Oxfam at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ox-Tales: Water by Oxfam at Amazon.com.


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