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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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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 |
Elementals explores the ideas of fire and ice in several different ways.

It varies from "Cold", a fairy tale story with literal fire and ice in the form of an ice princess who marries a fire oriented prince, to "Crocodile Tears", a modern story with no magic where the ice manifests as a motif symbolizing guilt and grief.

With such a short collection - just six stories- I was disappointed that there was one that fell completely flat for me ("Baglady"), but as it was very short, just ten pages or so, it was over quickly.

My two favorites are the aforementioned "Cold" and "A Lamia in the Cevennes", a story which contrasts an artists obsession with perfection and a Lamia's desire to be human. It's given an added layer if you've read the source poem, Keat's "Lamia". ( )
  Melanti | Mar 30, 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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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:02 -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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