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Faessler, Shirley.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1988. 234pp, cloth, $19.95. ISBN 0-7710-3111-4. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by Adele Ashby

Volume 16 Number 5
1988 September

Shirley Faessler is one of Canada's many distinguished short story writers. Her work has been published in Saturday Night and The Best American Short Stories, and her stories have been broadcast on the CBC. These nine stories, written over three decades, are all set in the Kensington Market area of Toronto prior to World War II when the market was the heart of the immigrant Jewish community.

The stories are divided into two sequences. The first, made up of six stories, is told from the perspective of a child and provides a look at the dally lives of an extended family. The second, made up of three stories, re-creates the gossipy, competitive world of a group of middle-aged ladies who gamble, playing endless games of medium-stake poker.

The stories are richly detailed and, especially in the first sequence, full of the warmth of family life and nostalgic humour. In "Henye." the first story, a pair of brothers who began life in the New World as fish pedlars graduate to a new career during Prohibition. Their fish cart now delivers bootleg booze hidden under a tray containing "a few scattered pickerel, a bit of pike, a piece of whitefish, packed in ice."

Not in any way limited to the Jewish experience or the immigrant experience but relevant to both, A Basket of Apples is primarily of interest to an adult audience, although the stories could serve as models of good writing in the senior high school grades.

Adele Ashby, Toronto, Ont.
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