Book Reviews
Angel Maker: Sara Maitland
16th Mar 2010Posted in: Book Reviews Comments Off on Angel Maker: Sara Maitland
Angel Maker: Sara Maitland

Angel Maker, Sara Maitland’s stunning collection of thirty short stories published in 1996, reveals not only a rare and special sort of imagination but magic, wisdom and courage too. Many of these stories make use of myths, bible stories, history, folk and fairy tales, but prepare yourself well, for nothing between these pages will be like anything you’ve ever read before. Slyly the author draws the reader in with all the tools at her disposal; her wise and formidable intellect, her knowledge and research of the subjects she chooses, her humanity and love of the esoteric, wielding any number of clever writerly devices, including beautiful, sometimes deceptively simple prose and the elements of shock, surprise, inventiveness, of difference.

Here is a man who dresses as a woman to kill a seal; Cinderella’s tale told from the wicked stepmother’s point of view; that of Andromeda and Perseus tilted sideways; of a letter written to a dragon that turns the story of St. George and the princess he rescued upside down. But don’t imagine that these are archaic set pieces – each has a foot – sometimes both feet – firmly in the present. Fag Hags: A Field Guide, seems to be exactly that; one’s conviction when reading that this is more memoir than fiction challenges the whole concept of story-telling, as does Maybe a Love Poem for my Friend. Whether Sara Maitland is writing about a beautiful princess whose feet are bound or a girl who dreams of becoming a garden, she always reveals a glimpse of sometimes breathtaking insight and wisdom for any reader open to the author’s gift, especially if that reader is a woman.

I mentioned courage. Like the heroines she creates the author seems unafraid of risk – ready, willing and able to dig deep into those dark places where most writers fear to go, coming up with things more usually hidden and lifting them up into the dizzy light. She pulls off this balancing act with all the skill and verve displayed by her twin acrobats on the Eiffel Tower in A Fall from Grace. But unlike Eva and Louise, Sara Maitland’s hold is sure: she doesn’t slip but succeeds brilliantly.

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