Funny and moving, believable yet surprising, The Survivors is a superb debut from a master storyteller.
‘On a Dark Lake’ features a group of tourists on a cruise round Lake Nasser. Figures emerge, relationships develop, and just as the reader is beginning to think that – despite the evocative sense of place, precise observation of character, and deft delineation of dynamics – holidays are, well, a bit boring, someone dies. Surprising reactions ensue in the now acutely awkward atmosphere.
In ‘The Air in Your Bones’, the impulsive Astrid meets the phlegmatic Lawrence, and they begin a relationship. He charms her dog Clive, but in a rare moment of exuberance Lawrence gets carried away playing with Clive and the dog is killed by a car. Astrid never really forgives Lawrence, and, having buried Clive on Hampstead Heath, she decides to go travelling – on her own.
‘The Potential of Love’ centres around an imbalanced ménage à trois in London. Jane and the male narrator become obsessed with Trip, an older man of considerable charisma and wealth. Suspicion, jealousy and deceit abound, yet finally the narrator’s mind is opened to the reality of desire and potential of love.
On the evidence of these wonderful short stories, economical and ambivalent, von Haaren’s first novel will be eagerly anticipated.
All recommendations from Spring 2011