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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Book Review: The Scent of Cinnamon by Charles Lambert

A few months ago I blogged about reading more short story collections and how it was really something I should do. However, instead of picking up one of the collections I already had unfinished, I went and bought Charles Lambert's The Scent of Cinnamon, available from Salt Publishing. My basis for the choice? The description on Salt's site along with an intriguing cover design. I was quite impressed that the design actually suited one of the stories too and wasn't there for pure eye-catching value.

These sixteen stories beg to be read again, particularly the title piece. The problem is, as much as I want to tell you about them, I want you to read them yourselves. Admittedly, the ones more to my taste were at the beginning of the collection and my favourites are probably 'Moving the Needle Towards the Thread', 'Girlie', 'Soap' and 'The Scent of Cinnamon'. I loved the narrative voices of them all and the progression that made me sorry they had to stop. Lambert plunges you into a situation and drops pertinent information as he goes along. That's the way short stories work best but it's not always how it materialises. He has an eye for a revealing detail and, in a short number of pages, manages to convey character better than some novelists.

Lambert lives in Italy and there is a definite Italian influence on the stories. Indeed, several of them make use of the scenery and sounds of the country. I would advise anybody with the slightest homophobia (or not keen on sometimes graphic male sex scenes) to steer clear of this though. I found the stories containing homosexual characters to be refreshing, primarily because they fitted in so well with the rest of the collection. I particularly love the ending of 'Air', a story so reminiscent of relationships in general that it struck a chord with me.

I'd recommend this book to anyone searching for extremely readable and thought-provoking stories. Buy it direct from Salt Publishing and read an excerpt from the title piece here.

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