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Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice by A. S.…

Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice (1998)

by A. S. Byatt

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
My favorite collection of short stories by Byatt. I keep wandering back to it and flipping through the pages, and then I end up reading the whole thing over again. "Cold" is fantastic. I've tried to explain it to people, and the plot sounds so cheesy, but you have to read it to understand its beauty. "A Lamia in the Cevennes" and "Crocodile Tears" were also favorites. One thing I love about her stories is that they can be so real, and have that one element that is just the opposite. A lot of great stories in here, with gorgeous descriptions. ( )
  ashleyk44 | Jul 8, 2014 |
All the stories are rich in physical detail. The people and the places have a very good description. And color has an important function. The message of Byatt that art, curiosity and stories will save us, is very engaging. ( )
  timswings | Aug 28, 2013 |
I think it probably speaks volumes that I know I've read this - I remember reading it - but I can barely remember one of the stories and can't remember any of the others, although I know I finished the book. I need to accept that Byatt and I simply don't get on.
  imyril | Aug 14, 2013 |
A collection of six short stories from A.S. Byatt. Themes of memory, sadness and alienation run through the collection. The use of language and imagery is wonderful, with the use of light and colour being most noticeable to me. As always with collections I preferred some of the stories, but all of them had aspects that I enjoyed. All in all a delightful read. ( )
  calm | Aug 18, 2010 |
This was my first collection by AS Byatt. It is a collection of six short stories and it is subtitled "Tales of Fire and Ice". They all have fantasy and fairy tale elements to them although "Cold" is the most traditionally fairy tale. It was also my favourite by far in the book. It follows a princess, the youngest child of the king and queen. She is loved by all but isn't very emotional and is often tired and sleepy. One day it snows and she finally comes alive and discovers one of her ancestors was a woman from the cold north lands. Her father wants her to marry (ideally from the North so she can be happy in the cold), but she chooses a man from the desert hotlands. She travels with him but begins to wane until her husband finds a compromise. It was beautifully told and mixed fantastical with cruel. It will definitely stick with me for a long time to come.

The other stories that stood out were "A Lamia in the Cvennes" and "Christ in the House of Martha and Mary". These were about a man who paints a lamia who lives in his swimming pool but tries to get out of marrying her once the painting is done. Christ is about two models who stood for Velsquez as Martha and Mary and where their lives have taken them since.

Unfortunately I wasn't so keen on the other three in the collection. They were a little dull and dragged. The three I did like more than made up for their lacking and as I said, Cold will stay with me a long time. From doing a search online it looks like this isn't the best introduction to Byatt's writing and I know I will be reading more by her in the future. ( )
  Rhinoa | Aug 9, 2010 |
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Patches of time can be recalled under hypnosis.
Glass, Sasan said, was made of the things which they had in abundance - the sand of the desert, three parts, lime, and soda which they made from the wracks, or seaweeds, which clung to the rocks round their coasts.
The cook, as much as the painter, looks into the essence of the creation, not, as I do, in light and on surfaces, but with all the other senses, with taste, and smell, and touch, which God also made in us for purposes. You may come at the better part by understanding emulsions, Dolores, by studying freshness and the edges of decay in leaves and flesh, by mixing wine and blood and sugar into sauces, as well as I may ... You must learn now that the important lesson — as long as you have your health — is that the divide is not between the servants and the served, between the leisured and the workers, but between those who are interested in the world and its multiplicity of forms and forces, and those who merely subsist, worrying or yawning. ... The Church teaches that Mary is the contemplative life, which is higher than Martha’s way, which is the active way. But any painter must question, which is which?
When I first lost Liv, I wished the whole world to be dead, too. Frozen stiff, I wished everything to be. But I exist. And you, forgive me, you exist.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375705759, Paperback)

A.S. Byatt's stories simmer with a sensuality and passion that, like topiary trees in a formal garden, are pruned and trained into cultivated shapes while retaining the wild scent of the orchard. In "Crocodile Tears" a woman walks away from a personal tragedy, deserting those she loves to try to reconcile herself to a death for which she feels horribly responsible. Thrown together in Nîmes with another exiled mourner, a Norwegian full of northern folktales, she ricochets between a numbed calm and a reckless urge for self-destruction. Together they begin to assemble some kind of personal solace out of fragments of European history, fiction, and myth, and so come to terms with their guilt. "A Lamia in the Cevennes" is also set in France, where another isolated English exile struggles for self-knowledge amid the shards of history and folktale. "Cold" is itself a kind of latter-day fairy story of ice princesses and sighing suitors. These are stories steeped in light and color, full of glowing landscapes and sensuous delights. Their intricately woven skeins of literary allusion and keenly observed locations bewitch the reader. Yet the figures in Byatt's landscapes seem powerless to derive pleasure or solace from their surroundings, picking their lonely way through the brilliance, carrying with them burdens of painful memories they cannot shake off. --Lisa Jardine, Amazon.co.uk

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:27 -0400)

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A collection of stories on the theme of opposites. In Cold, a princess from a cold climate risks her health to marry a prince from a hot desert, while in Christ in the House of Martha and Mary an artist opens a cook's eyes to cooking as art.

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