Stories from Another World
Sheila Kohler
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Stories from Another World
Sheila Kohler
Ontario Review Press
150 pages
October 2003
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Many short stories in this collection from South African author Sheila Kohler (Cracks) have already won awards on their magazine publication. It is easy to see why. The stories are set in a diverse range of locations including Italy, France, South Africa and the US, and Kohler not only captures the essence of the landscapes but also the frailty of her all-too-human characters who are confronted by strange encounters and hidden danger.

They passed her story from mouth to mouth, for the little thrill of it, the excitement, the attention given to the teller of the tail. She could imagine them saying; “Do you know what happened to her? -The worst thing in the world.” She knew it gave her a certain mystery, a sort of dark glamour like a full-length black coat, which she wore perpetually.
-- from "All the Days of My Life"
"Paris at Night" is the story of a pregnant woman who goes for a drive through the city on the eve of her wedding and picks up a strange and dangerous hitchhiker. In "Casualty", a lonely mother takes a lover to avenge her unfaithful husband, with almost fatal consequences. In "Underworld", a young girl is kept behind at school for the weekend as a punishment and finds herself at the mercy of a sexually repressed teacher. "Death in Rome" tells of two women, long-standing friends, who reunite in Rome in their later years only to find that their friendship is not as deep as they once thought. In "Baboons", the confession of a surgeon’s homosexual affair to his wife is contrasted to the behavior of primates.

Kohler is a first-rate author, and she guides the reader through each of her character’s evolutions to reveal that life is often not as they expect it to be -- and trying to manipulate it often leads them to a harsher reality.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Corinna Underwood, 2004

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