Results of the Governor General's Literary Award in the year 1991.
It is Bombay in 1971, the year India went to war over what was to become Bangladesh. A hard-working bank clerk, Gustad Noble is a devoted family man who gradually sees his modest life unravelling. His young daughter falls ill; his promising son defies his father’s ambitions for him. He is the one reasonable voice amidst the ongoing dramas of his neighbours. One day, he receives a letter from an old friend, asking him to help in what at first seems like an heroic mission. But he soon finds himself unwittingly drawn into a dangerous network of deception. Compassionate, and rich in details of character and place, this unforgettable novel charts the journey of a moral heart in a turbulent world of change.
These well-crafted stories range in subject from a jilted husband’s attempt to win his family back by breaking the world push-up record to the cause-and-effect relationship between one man’s attempted suicide and the disabling of his rescuer’s son. The title story details a system of colour-coding husbands; earthtone for the ones who ‘never talk or if they do it’s about crabgrass or the weather’; red for ‘the guys who are always maddern’ hell and want to hit people’; black husbands, ‘the guys with hearts the colour of soot’; and green for ‘the ones who just want to grow’. In ‘Blue Husbands’ Dickinson shows one man’s transformation from a blue husband to a man who won’t be confined by his father’s paintbox reduction of marriage. Like ‘Blue Husbands’, many of these stories explore the hazards of marriage and Dickinson, avoiding the pitfall of sentimentality, powerfully and persuasively celebrates our desire for love.
Urbane, stylish, and off-beat, the stories in this collection touch the lives of an astonishing array of characters whose common experience is of a world that is wayward yet full of marvels.
For the most part, the stories take place on an island locale, but range widely in subject, character, and design. A story like ‘Man With the Axe’, which deals with creativity within the context of a testy brother-sister relationship, moves along in a fairly traditional way, while ‘Unfinished’ is composed of a shattered narrative, a collage of grief and anger that reflects the distraction of its speaker. The stories told are familiar ones, of loss and generational conflict and obsession, though the angle taken is often idiosyncratic and the humour admittedly quirky. The odd ghost may slip in; a dog may be given his intellectual due. The author has allowed the actual and believable to flirt with the imagined, the fantastic. In places, she confesses, to have stretched the truth until its face resembles one you might encounter in a funhouse. But then, when you meet up with it, the truth isn’t always a beautiful friend.
An award-winning collection of ten stories that charts the complexities of modern life and explores the strange and secret places of the heart. The gruesome discoveries of an archaeological dig in Britain find parallels in a contemporary love affair; a girl disappears without a trace and returns to haunt a collection of landscape paintings; a nineteenth-century case of mass-poisoning on the famous Franklin Expedition stirs memories of a dead friend; a woman exacts a fittingly wicked revenge on her ex-lover; a well-known journalist is betrayed by a former mentor and friend. Brilliantly rendered, disturbing, poignant at times, scathingly humorous at others, Wilderness Tips imbues the familiar world in which we live with indelible truths.