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Svendsen, Linda
Toronto, HarperCollins, 1992. 176pp, galley, ISBN 0-00-223889-6, cloth, $21.95. CIP


Reviewed by Sharon Anne McLennan McCue

Volume 20 Number 4
1992 September

Paying one's dues is part of being a writer, and Linda Svendsen has been doing that, writing and publishing short stories (as well as the the screenplay for the Diviners) for more than a decade. It shows. The language and style in her latest book, Marine Life, are solid testimony to the skills she has been honing in this time.

Marine Life is not really a novel, not really a short story collection, but rather a combination of the two. Like Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women (New American Library, 1971; Penguin, 1990), it is strengthened by the forms from which it draws.

The central character and narrator of the story is Adele, the youngest in a family of four and the result of an effort to hold together a failing marriage. The book is made up of joined short stories which concern themselves with Adele's relationships with the members of her family. The spark that keeps the reader turning the pages is not Adele (if anything, Adele is a weak point) but her passionate, lounge pianist mother whose capacity for marrying bounders is matched only by her lack of understanding of her children.

The book has its slow spots but it is a worthy addition to any Canadiana collection and should not be passed up by secondary teachers looking for something different to tempt their senior students.

Sharon Anne McLennan McCue is a policy analyst on aboriginal issues with Solicitor General Canada in Ottawa and is a former library services consultant with the Cree School Board in Chisasibi, Quebec.

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