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Monday, 7 January 2013

The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman

I kicked off 2013 with this small but perfectly formed novella, a kind of literary palate cleanser if you like, a bit of escapism to see in the New Year. I am happy to hold my hands up and admit that I readily judge books by their covers, so of course this beautiful little hardback had to be mine when I spotted it a few weeks ago - particularly given my penchant for red and black colour schemes that emerged when picking my 2012 favourites! At a tiny 88 pages it is the perfect book to curl up with on a lazy afternoon and read in a single sitting.

Tiny Wife Andrew Kaufman

The Tiny Wife begins in a dramatic fashion as a thief in a purple hat bursts into a busy Toronto bank brandishing a loaded gun. But it soon becomes apparent that this is no ordinary stick-up. The stranger demands that each of the bank's customers gives him the object in their possession that holds the most sentimental value. Confused, they comply with his demands and part with the trinkets that they hold dear; a cheap watch, a well-used calculator. But along with these knick-knacks each victim loses a part of their own soul, which triggers all manner of bizarre and surreal events across the city.

The consequences of this singular encounter affect the victims in a multitude of different ways, and I am loath to give too much away as after all, the book is only 88 pages long. Suffice it to say, some find their lives are changed for the better, such as the man who finds that his little baby begins to fill its nappy with cash. But others, like Stacey Hinterland, are thrown into a world of uncertainty. Stacey discovers that she is shrinking, imperceptibly at first, but later at an alarming rate. Her relationship with her husband becomes more strained than ever and her toddler son threatens to engulf her. How is she to find her soul again before she disappears for good?

Part modern fairy tale, part magical realism, I enjoyed this little fable and lost myself in the quirky tales of how the different characters were affected by the robbery. It is immensely imaginative and thoroughly charming.  However as I came to the end I had a niggling feeling that something of the moral of the story had passed me by. Who is this flamboyant stranger in the purple hat, and what are his motives? They say good things come in small packages, so feel free to call me a greedy so and so if you like, but I was left wanting just a few pages more. The Tiny Wife definitely comes highly recommended, and I am very tempted to pick up a copy of Kaufman's latest, 'Born Weird', which has been recently published.


7 comments:

  1. What an unusual sounding book. Magic realism doesn't usually do it for me. However, I do like novellas. Once of my major gripes is the extent to which books are getting longer and longer without any corresponding improvement in quality. However a friend of mine who works in a bookshsop assures me that there is a price/quantity ratio at work with much of the book-buying public and shorter books don't sell as well as longer ones. The nappy filled with cash sounds intriguing.....

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    1. Yes, I agree - I have never been much of a fan of short story collections as a general rule, but enjoy novellas much more. It's interesting you say that as I was looking at other reviews of this book on Goodreads earlier and somebody had said that they wouldn't buy a copy themselves as it cost £10 & they thought that was too much for 88 pages! It is a really beautifully packaged 88 pages, too.

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  2. I read this last year and really enjoyed it. Born Weird is on my wishlist too!

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    1. I think Born Weird sounds even better! All My Friends Are Superheroes also sounds really sweet. Kaufman has such a brilliant imagination, I love it.

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  3. Sounds really interesting! The consequences of losing something you are attached to. I'll look for the story, thanks for the recommendation!

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  4. I read this last year and loved it. SO quirky and unusual and I adored the silhouette-style illustrations throughout. I think 2013 might be a bit of a fairy story/fantastical year for me so would love to discover some of his other work...

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  5. I fell in love with this little gem. Bought multiple copies and gave them to my friends the previous Christmas. I am looking forward to reading Born Weird also.

    PS: I have a penchant for a red and black colour scheme too.

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