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Elementals : stories of fire and ice
A. S. Byatt
Adult Fiction BYATT

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Brilliantly mingling reality with the surreal atmosphere of folktales and fairy tales, Byatt follows The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye with an equally virtuosic and beguiling collection. The subtitle is the key to the oppositions that inspire these six stories. They teem with contrasts between inexplicable compulsions and societal norms, the extremes of love and hate, the mysterious tension between the rational and the mystic, and between the creation of art and the demands of daily life. Byatt's meticulous control of language gives these narratives a visual and tactile dimension that's almost palpable. Permeated with descriptions of colors, temperatures and atmosphere, full of sensuous imagery, each is an immersion in a richly imagined world. A compulsion to flee from the reality of her husband's dead body sends the protagonist of "Crocodile Tears" to sun-drenched Nimes, where she meets a man from Norway who is researching folktales common to both regions. Slowly and agonizingly, each regains the ability to deal with loss. In "Cold," Fiammarosa, the princess of a mythical kingdom, can exist only in a frigid atmosphere, but she marries a prince from a desert realm where burning sand is spun into glass; the contrastÄand the eventual mingling of the two polaritiesÄis conveyed in passages of gorgeous description. The protagonists of most of these stories work in the creative arts or have strong ties to literature. (Interestingly, the central character of the one disappointing tale, "Baglady," a nightmarish scenario that lacks resolution, does not.) "The world is full of light and life, and the true crime is not to be interested in it," says a painter, one of the characters in "Christ in the House of Martha and Mary." Byatt conveys this conviction via an unfettered imagination, an intense lyricism combined with distilled and crystalline prose, and an astute grasp of the contradictory impulses of human nature. Six illustrations. Author tour. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

This collection of three long stories and three brief ones by the author of, most recently, The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye (LJ 12/97), features her trademark fairy tale and magical elements as well as the age-old complexities of human nature. In "Crocodile Tears," while fiftyish couple Tony and Patricia Nimmo are touring a small art gallery after lunch one Sunday, he drops dead. Patricia inexplicably runs away, fleeing not only the scene but the country. She sets herself up in a hotel in France until she can manage her shock and grief. "Cold" is truly a fairy tale: a young princess who, legend has it, is descended from an ice maiden, can't bear warmth and comfort. She prefers dancing naked in the snow and thus presents a challenge to the king when it comes time to find her a suitable mate. These stories create appealing worlds of fantasy and truth and should prove popular with fiction readers. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/99.]ÄAnn H. Fisher, Radford P.L., VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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