readingtrance

book reviews by Althea

Dreams of Distant Shores – Patricia A. McKillip

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Dreams of Distant Shores
Dreams of Distant Shores by Patricia A. McKillip

*** “Weird”
“Weird” is an appropriate adjective for this scene, not just its title. A couple are holed up in a bathroom, in what, at first, seems to be a romantic interlude. As, perhaps, a bit of pillow talk, one asks the other what the weirdest thing that has ever happened to her is. In between the relation of a number of odd incidents, we gradually realize that in fact, the ‘weirdest thing’ might be happening right now.
I liked the idea, and of course, the writing (It’s McKillip!) but I don’t prefer stories that are so open-ended and unexplained. (As I said, it’s more of a ‘scene’ than a ‘story.’)

*** “Mer”
In tone and feel, this reminded me a lot of McKillip’s latest novel, “Kingfisher” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…). An ancient witch, after sleeping through the ages, ends up embodied in a mermaid statue… just at the moment that the statue is the subject of an illicit ‘prank’ committed by a few young men, in a modern-day coastal town.
I liked it, but I thought that the amount of time devoted to the witch’s history made it feel unbalanced compared to the page time dedicated to current events.

***** “The Gorgon in the Cupboard”
I read this as a companion piece to McKillip’s “The Kelpie” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…).
There’s no fantasy element here, but it’s a powerful and lovely story that explores the relationship between Pre-raphaelite painters and their models: how the men often idolized and idealized these women, making them heroes and victims of classical and supernatural dramas – while ignoring or wholly blind to the very real dramas and trials going on in these women’s very real lives.
Beautifully done.

**** “Which Witch”
A re-read – previously read in “Under My Hat.” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…)
“I challenge anyone to read this story and not wish they were a part of the rock band described. This tale would fit in really well with Terri Windling’s ‘Bordertown’ series. However, the plot elements are very slight, and cry out for further development…”
Upon re-reading, I actually though the plot was fine, but yes, I’d be happy to read a whole novel about the adventures of this band of witches and their familiars.

**** “Edith and Harry Go Motoring” (original)
The particulars of this story, as well as the general feel of it, reminded me quite a lot of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘They.’ (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…)
A woman and her friend have a chauffeur take them on a drive, and, crossing a bridge with a strange toll keeper, they end up at a dilapidated and seemingly-abandoned mansion. Exploring the interior will lead both of them to profound – if vague – realizations.
A haunted house (?) tale with an undercurrent of mythology.

**** “Alien” (original)
When grandma starts saying she’d been abducted by aliens who are regularly visiting her, her family immediately is concerned about the obvious: senility, or possibly bad side effects of a medication. But is there another possibility?
A lovely, but poignant, story.

*** “Something Rich and Strange”
Previously read, some time ago. This was previously published as a book on its own. This one story is fully half the page count of this volume; which is worth considering, if you’ve already read it. (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…)
“A rather dreamy, slow book, this novella tells the story of an eccentric couple, Megan and Jonah, who live in a seaside town. Megan’s an artist and Jonah runs an artsy souvenir shop. But a mystic couple arrive in town… Megan finds herself irresistibly drawn to a travelling jewelry-maker, and Jonah finds himself obsessed with a beautiful singer he sees in the local pub. Magic intertwines with reality as Megan and Jonah’s relationship seems to be tearing apart, for these strangers are magical beings from the sea, and Jonah is drawn in like so many other of legend, by siren song. But today, the mermaids want for than sensual, cruel amusement – they want to draw attention to the ecological disaster being faced by the world’s oceans.
I really love Patricia McKillip, but this novella gave me a bit of an ‘unfinished’ feel – there were a few loose ends, and the ‘message’ seemed awkwardly fitted in.”

Many thanks to NetGalley and Tachyon for the opportunity to read this book by one of my preferred authors! As always, my opinions are solely my own.

View all my reviews

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