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Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Balancing On The Edge Of The World

by Elizabeth Baines

Balancing on the edge of the world by Elizabeth Baines is an intense collection of short stories, each on the theme of power – finding it, keeping it and losing it.

Baines’ characterisations are particularly vivid, ranging from comic to tragic but always retaining their believability. I laughed out loud in places but was incredibly moved and sometimes frustrated in others. The collection plays with different voices and points of view, keeping your attention from story to story, and I could clearly see the influence of Baines’ dramatic work for radio and stage.

The collection of 14 stories covers a lot of ground, from magic to metaphysics, while looking at “cool hard edges” and “the pain that had caused them”. My favourite pieces are Daniel Smith Disappears Off the Face of the Earth which contrasts one life-altering moment in the life of a teenage boy with “all the times and places in the history of the world” and Power, the haunting story of a young girl listening to her parent’s relationship fall apart.

This is Baines’ first collection and it is not an easy read. Each story demands concentration from the reader but, in return, delivers an appropriately powerful experience.

Reviewed by Claire Marriott