Saturday, February 26, 2011

Short Story Review: A Woman Like the Sea By Anne Brooke

Reviewed by Victor J. Banis
Published by Untreed Reads

When an author pens a novel, it’s pretty much up to him to tell the reader what he wants the reader to know. In a short story, however, the author must seduce the reader into becoming a participant in the process. The short story allows only so many words, so many lines. It becomes the reader’s role to read between the lines, to fill in the blanks from what the author has given him.

There are few authors who illustrate this point more effectively than Anne Brooke, and perhaps nowhere better than in this brief, nearly perfect story. Sometime in the past, the woman telling the story, a good but not great artist who painted the sea, met another woman and they loved. Now her love is gone, and the narrator waits by the ocean for her to return.

That’s it. But within the bare framework of this tale, beneath the surface of its elegant phrases, its impeccable rhythms, its haunting familiarity, lies an ocean of feeling, of suggestion and unfathomable menace. The author gives us a breathtaking palette of shadings, of sounds and scents—but it is up to the reader to provide the nuance, the feel of it, the sense. These come from our own deep fathoms, borne on the tide of our love, our hate, our loss. Because the author is wise enough to know that we have them too.

The sea is a mystery—as the author puts it, “a primeval force like anger or fear or love.” Ultimately we must all of us stand at the shore of those deep emotions and remember—and wait.

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