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Copeland, Ann.

Ottawa, Oberon Press, c1984. 134pp, paper, ISBN 0-88750-522-8 (cloth) $21.95, 0-88750-523-6 (paper) $11.95.

Reviewed by Vivienne Denton

Volume 13 Number 4
1985 July

This is Ann Copeland's third collection of short stories. These well-crafted, strong stories are sombre and rather austere in style, nicely complemented by the striking dark painting reproduced on the cover in black-and-earth tones by Derek Besant.

The stories draw on the author's own experience of campus and convent life. The unifying subject is the human need for love, and the way in which this ache for affection is often expressed in curious, even bizarre behaviour. In one story a crotchety old man in a wheel chair, whose craving for affection and respect is expressed in a series of vindictive actions, grabs at candies meant for children at a carnival. His meanness disappears when his grandchild runs spontaneously to greet him and he gives her his candy. However, in most stories, this gentle impulse is sullied by feigning, manipulation, withholding. "Hostess" is the story of a manipulative mother whose sons cannot defy her though she is now seventy-eight. The young wife of the title story is forced to face the bitter fact that her dead husband did not respond to her love, that he was, in fact, gay. In "Second Spring" an ex-nun recollects the cruel awakening of her senses to the possibilities of sexual tenderness by the caress of a priest who she knew had used a series of her female acquaintances. Other stories are about prisoners. The emotional hunger of these men literally behind "one, two, three sets of barred doors" seems a key to characters in other stories in the collection. Ann Copeland's work is characterized by a keen intelligence, a sharp eye for detail, and telling psychological accuracy in recreating character.

Vivienne Denton, Toronto, Ont.
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