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These short stories show a remarkable, perhaps a decisive, step in Mr Sansom's development. Breaking away from the somewhat rigid allegorical form of his earlier work, he has turned to a more naturalistic treatment of this themes. This change gives freer play to the writer's brilliant sensibility and human understanding, and a wider range of subjects, without any loss of originality or integrity.
His stories are concerned for the most part with those emotional crises when the senses are preternaturally alert, or impressionable, when a slight, subtle shift of reality compels one to see everything afresh - with wonder, with fascination, or with horror. His gift for exuberant yet minutely vivid detail has never been so admirably displayed. He seems to be writing with all his senses; and he is willing to contemplate, even to moralise upon, the material they give him. Many of these stories explore the imaginative response of men and women to physical sensations - a youth climbs a gasometer for a dare; a nun is walled up alive; a fireman wades through a river of molten toffee during a blitz; a predestined victim meets a sex-murderer.
There are nightmare stories, tragic ones, gay ones, strange ones. This collection will surely confirm Mr Sansom's reputation as a short-story writer. One or two, we believe - How Claeys Died, for instance - may well become classics in their genre.
A genuine sense of style, a feeling for words themselves which becomes at times a passion, an excellence of diction which makes this, for me, at least, the most exciting thing that has happened in print for a long time.
Rupert Croft-Cooke, The Sketch
Very few writers of our time have either his intensity of perception or his felicity of expression.
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