Yum-Yum Pickles

Alex Clark

  • The Hunters: Two Short Novels by Claire Messud
    Picador, 181 pp, £12.99, February 2002, ISBN 0 330 48814 7

The recurring theme of a life’s compression or diminution is reflected in the deceptive miniaturism of the twin stories in The Hunters. Messud labours on her two inches of ivory – and the book can, at times, feel like a labour – to create a work that tests the possibilities of how much can be encoded in how little.

According to her British publishers, The Hunters was not considered for this year’s Orange Prize because it wasn’t ‘a unified work’ – which hardly makes sense because it is a book of startling rigour and extraordinary sense of purpose, far more ‘unified’ than many more conventional novels. When they are read as companion pieces, it is hard to imagine either of these short novels existing without the ballast and symmetry of the other.

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