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A fantastic writer - compassionate, funny and fearless' George Saunders
'One of the US's finest writers' according to Joshua Ferris, Jim Shepard now delivers a new collection that spans borders and centuries with unrivalled mastery.
These ten stories ring with voices as diverse as those belonging to Arctic explorers in history's most nightmarish expedition, the Montgolfier brothers competing to be the first man to fly, and two American frontierswomen whose passionate connection is severed by jealous husbands and a deadly snowstorm.
In each case the personal is the political as these humans, while falling in love or negotiating marital pitfalls or simply coming to terms with their own failings, face the tidal wave of nature's indifference and cruelty. History has swept them from our sympathy; Jim Shepard has reached into the past and sought them out.
In his first collection to be published in the UK, this celebrated master of the short story displays his formidable acuity in imagining these wildly different worlds, and what our various lives feel like in the grip of catastrophe.
In his latest collection, Shepard (The Book of Aron) continues to spin historical yarns, bouncing from the Minoan civilization of 1600 B.C.E. to the 21st-century United States, and the results are rewarding. The incredible "Safety Tips for Living Alone" recounts the fate of a doomed U.S. Air Force radar station, Texas Tower #4, lost to a winter storm in 1961, via the experiences of workers aboard and their wives safely ashore. More men are trapped in the harrowing "HMS Terror," which follows an English expedition of arctic waters, as well as in "Telemachus," a WWII story that takes place inside a claustrophobic English T-class submarine patrolling Far Eastern waters. The collection's detailed, heartbreaking title story suggests a different kind of imprisonment, as neighboring housewives attempt to forge a taboo loving relationship while isolated on the 19th-century American frontier, while Shepard's more contemporary tales focus on the quarantine-like effects of depression and family feuds. Throughout, the author immerses the reader in the minds of his characters, often structuring narratives in epistolary fashion, and returns to quirks several characters fall in love with cousins, for example to provide the collection a threaded cohesion.