Connie Willis,
Winds of Marble Arch & Other Stories
(Subterranian Press, 2007)

I just finished The Winds of Marble Arch, and I feel like I always do after finishing something by Connie Willis -- I want more!

Willis claims in her introduction that all her writing is just tricks, and I think that must be one of them. I've never closed the covers thinking "Finally!"

This was a surprise book. According to her website, Willis is working on a novel of the Blitz (London during the World War II air raids) so I've been patiently (not really) waiting for that. But surprise! The other day this massive book appeared on the doorstep like a gift from the lady herself!

There are 23 short stories plus an entertaining introduction that Willis chose to use as a resource for good reads and movies rather than self-promotional space. Although it's a best-of collection, there were several stories I'd never read before, including the new title story about the London Tube system, which apparently has a weird wind effect. After a wild ride round the town, our hero finds the answers to both the real source of the powerful gusts, and the secrets at the heart of his marriage.

Since there are so many stories I'll just run through a few of my personal favorites.

"Blued Moon" is a sweet story about how it's possible to "generate" language, but romance is best left to chance. "Fire Watch" and "Jack" are both about London during World War II. The Fire Watch was the group of volunteers who kept nightly watches over the city as bombs and incendiaries pelted it from above. They are the reason so many buildings were not lost to the resulting fires. I had never heard of them before reading Willis; she is a one-woman champion of history.

"Epiphany," "Samaritan" and "Inn" reflect Willis's strong base in Christianity. "Inn" is a sort of alternate story of Joseph and Mary, while "Epiphany" and "Samaritan" ponder the possibilities of a modern messiah.

There is a great variety of Willis' work represented here, so whether you're a die-hard fan or just starting, this book cannot possibly disappoint.

review by
Katie Knapp

9 June 2007

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