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This review is taken from PN Review 62, Volume 14 Number 6, July - August 1988.

IN CONTEXT Stuart Hood, A Storm from Paradise (Carcanet) £9.95; The Upper Hand (Carcanet) £10.95

It is the detail, lovingly observed and sharply delineated, which will perhaps first strike the reader of A Storm from Paradise: the rolling haunches of a coach-horse, a scullery sink full of cold brown trout, the speckled eggs of a moorhen in an island nest. Stuart Hood's concern is not, however, with such detail alone, but with the place it occupies in a complex and densely woven fabric; as his narrator proceeds to define the landscape and the society in which he grew up, these intimate perceptions are subsumed in a wider historical perspective, one which accommodates 'the strange hooded riders of the Pictish kingdom' and the incursive Roman galleys as readily as it does the modern grouse-shooters strung out across the heather-clad slopes. Subtly but forcefully, Hood drives home the point that each item, each incident, is defined and perpetually redefined by a context from which it cannot be dissociated. The bawdy folk-ballad which the narrator's father sings softly as he runs his fingers over his mistress's body is explicitly located within a historical process which disseminates it, in the course of two subsequent world wars, through the troopships, canteens and brothels of an age very different from that in which it originated; while a recollection of childhood delight centred on the bright and aromatic vegetation of the village mill-leat is radically qualified by the expanding perspectives of a passage which first establishes the dependence of this specific habitat on an industrial framework now significantly changed, and then ...

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