Matthew Kneale is the author of English Passengers (shortlisted for the Booker Prize and winner of the Whitbread Book of the Year Award), Mr. Foreigner (winner of the Somerset Maugham Prize), Inside Rose's Kingdom and Sweet Things (Winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize). He lives in Rome with his wife and two children.
The 2000 Whitbread winner Kneale (English Passengers) offers 12 ironic stories in which ordinary people act on unexpected chances that first yield ample benefit, then disaster-and then a kind of calm resolution. For example, in "Powder," Peter, a muddling, unremarkable, middle-aged lawyer, comes upon a large bag of cocaine. Soon he and his wife are dealing and buying cars, but when their children find out, the family disintegrates, and eventually the police show up, followed by the media. From prison, Peter meanwhile feels pretty good, because now he "is" somebody, a celebrity even. The stories, which are set all over the world, are well wrought and intriguing, but there's a sameness to them. Like an old Moody Blues LP, the first impression is of a bright ray of illumination, but, with later reflection, the picture fades. For large and international fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/04.]-Robert E. Brown, Minoa Lib., NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
"'Every bit the equal of his Whitbread winner English Passengers, this collection of short stories is instantly engaging... With the precision of an assassin, Kneale propels his readers towards killer punchlines... the wit and ease of his style make this a thoroughly pleasurable way to pique one's conscience' Time Out 'Kneale does not judge. Like a film director in a silent sequence, he reveals. He is witty, compassionate; he understands all sides' Independent 'The title is a cunning one, anticipating ironies and paradoxes that run through this collection of stories... It is good to have [Matthew Kneale] back. He is a well-travelled writer, at ease in a wide range of fictional settings... a fine, subtle talent' Sunday Telegraph"
Kneale, author of the Whitbread-winning English Passengers, reaches all over the world for these 12 tales, with mixed results. The global economy's power imbalance is the general theme; Kneale shows how the peoples of the world, though inevitably interrelated, often remain sorely ignorant of (or indifferent to) each other. He drops his characters into faraway lands, exposing them to foreign cultures and thereby forcing them to examine their own ways of life. Sometimes the comparison brings horror, as in "Stone," in which a well-meaning English family traveling through China run smack into the harsh laws of a small town and become unintentionally complicit in the ruthless punishment of a man they think has robbed them. Other times the comparison brings shame, as in "Metal," in which a British arms salesman in an unnamed African country gets caught up in a riot that makes him vow to change his life. The shifts in setting give the book energy, but this is slightly undermined by the sameness of the prose and similarities among the characters. Kneale saves his best for last, though. "White" follows a Palestinian suicide bomber as he makes his way toward Tel Aviv, an explosive device strapped to his chest, his mind racing with doubt. This final, highly charged story leaves a lasting impression. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.