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Jazzy, Jyoti, Jase and Jane

Candia McWilliam, 10 May 1990

Jasmine 
by Bharati Mukherjee.
Virago, 241 pp., £12.95, April 1990, 1 85381 061 4
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Meatless Days 
by Sara Suleri.
Collins, 186 pp., £12.95, April 1990, 0 00 215408 0
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... Jasmine is the novel which grew from a short story in Bharati Mukherjee’s collection The Middleman. Meatless Days is the autobiography (though an unusually oblique one) of Sara Suleri, the daughter of a Welsh mother and the Pakistani editor and journalist Z.A. Suleri. Both writers now teach at American universities. In The Middleman marginalised characters (the word ‘margin’ comes from Sanskrit) sent their despatches from the dangerous edge of things ...

Family Romances

Anthony Thwaite, 2 February 1989

A Little Stranger 
by Candia McWilliam.
Bloomsbury, 135 pp., £12.95, January 1989, 9780747502791
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Running wild 
by J.G. Ballard.
Hutchinson, 72 pp., £5.95, November 1988, 0 09 173498 3
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Breathing Lessons 
by Anne Tyler.
Chatto, 327 pp., £11.95, January 1989, 0 7011 3391 0
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... Candia McWilliam’s first novel, A Case of Knives, won the Betty Trask Award last year. I expect I am wrong in persistently remembering this as a prize for something called Romantic Fiction; I believe I am right in thinking that the rubric was extended to include the words ‘or traditional’. The formidable young McWilliam doesn’t seem to me to fit comfortably under either label ...

My Wife

Jonathan Coe, 21 December 1989

Soho Square II 
edited by Ian Hamilton.
Bloomsbury, 287 pp., £12.95, November 1989, 0 7475 0506 3
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... around the dinner table. Crusty old patriarchs and rebellious daughters sit in amicable adjacency, Candia McWilliam pulls crackers with Harold Pinter, and the whole atmosphere (though no one would like to admit it) is rather jolly. Such anthologies have the paradoxical task of assembling a selection of supposedly distinctive voices and then subsuming them ...

Self-Unhelp

Lidija Haas: Candia McWilliam, 6 January 2011

What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness 
by Candia McWilliam.
Cape, 482 pp., £18.99, August 2010, 978 0 224 08898 5
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... Candia McWilliam is six feet tall and used to being stared at. She always looked ‘a bit thick’, she says, ‘where thick overlaps with apparently sexy’: a mixed blessing for anyone. Indeed, the looks could be a liability: on her first honeymoon, she was briefly kidnapped in Oaxaca by a gang who’d mistaken her for Jimmy Connors’s new wife, Playboy’s 1977 Playmate of the Year ...

Private Nutshells

Janette Turner Hospital, 4 August 1994

Debatable Land 
by Candia McWilliam.
Bloomsbury, 216 pp., £15.99, June 1994, 0 7475 1708 8
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... There is something unsettling, something quietly provocative of inner debate, about Candia McWilliam’s titles, of which, so far, there are only three. They are attached to slim works that occupy the borderlands between novella and novel, between meditation and narrative, between ScotsLit and literature for which a national tag is irrelevant ...

Enid’s Scars

Peter McDonald, 23 June 1988

You must remember this 
by Joyce Carol Oates.
Macmillan, 436 pp., £10.95, January 1988, 0 333 46182 7
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A Case of Knives 
by Candia McWilliam.
Bloomsbury, 266 pp., £12.95, January 1988, 0 7475 0074 6
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Burning your own 
by Glenn Patterson.
Chatto, 249 pp., £11.95, March 1988, 0 7011 3291 4
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... a terrible shriek. It flew up into the air higher and higher then suddenly fell to the ground.’ Candia McWilliam’s first novel, A Case of Knives, has little room for slices of life: indeed, one of the things which makes it remarkable is the combination of a highly-wrought narrative surface with a self-consciously contrived structure. There’s ...

In the Potato Patch

Jenny Turner: Penelope Fitzgerald, 19 December 2013

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 508 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 7011 8495 7
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... pressure: from the severe containment of the novel and the lives within it, and from what Candia McWilliam, in her excellent introduction to the new paperback edition, calls ‘the violent entropic subtraction of death in youth, leaving a burnt place behind in the creation – a bright star gone’. Shortly after Fritz meets Sophie, her cough ...

She Doesn’t Protest

Colin Burrow: The Untranslatable Decameron, 12 March 2009

Decameron 
by Giovanni Boccaccio, translated by J.G. Nichols.
Oneworld, 660 pp., £12.99, May 2008, 978 1 84749 057 5
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... social commerce of the Decameron. Classes mix through trade and sex. Vagrants drift to Candia (the old name for Heraklion); exiles have dealings with the sultan; the implausibly beautiful lady Alatiel finds no fewer than nine lovers, from merchants to princes, in locations ranging from Majorca to Smyrna. There are even brief glimpses of Northern ...

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