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So this is love: Lollipop and other stories    by Gilbert Reid Amazon.com order for
So this is love
by Gilbert Reid
Order:  USA  Can
Key Porter, 2004 (2004)
Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Sally Selvadurai

So this is love is a book of short stories about the many facets of love - love-hate dynamics in war-torn Bosnia, the childhood crush, the physicality of love, and love for a lost child. Gilbert Reid takes us through just such a multiplicity of love. Pavilion 24 is about a Muslim soldier who is a casualty of the Serbian forces, both physically and psychologically. He is incarcerated in a rehab centre with a Serbian women, herself a war survivor. Their relationship develops into one of mutual need and an unusual, even loving, bond develops between them. This story was deservedly nominated for Best Fiction by the National Magazine Awards.

Soon we will be blind, a story set in rural Ontario, speaks of a daughter's return home to visit her widowed father. As they reminisce, we learn of the incredible bond that developed between the daughter and a waiflike child who arrived on their farm one summer. Their recollections of the traumatic events that lead to her departure capture the attention; father and daughter both have strong, but different, feelings of love for this child, and for the wife and mother who has passed away. Another story, Hey, Mister!, also explores mother/child relationships but brings in the element of war and conflict, this time in Africa. This is a powerful piece of writing, which kept my attention throughout the narrative of a photographer working in a country suffering through 'ethnic cleansing' and famine. Some of Gilbert Reid's other stories of 'free love' in Europe in the 60s leave much to be desired (although they are all about desire!) These did not hold my interest, two in particular being Lollipop (the title story) and The Champion. Two other stories, After the Rain and Irony is ... were slightly better, but again relied on sexual desire as the principal nature of love.

There was one passage that I would like to share: 'It's smaller than I remember. All of it is foreshortened and bare, as if the past had shrunk. Shrunk? Maybe it is the present that has shrunk, withered and died. Maybe the present has left the past just as it was splendid in isolation, immortal, innocent as a picture drunk with unknowing happiness, drunk with summer smells, and in the long evenings drunk with the amber and gold fluttering of leaves.' (from The Road Out of Town) Indeed, we all look back on our lives with hindsight but cannot change that which is past and gone, remaining only to be embellished in our memory.

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