I hadn't come across Simon Van Booy before I got his book Love begins in winter, but having read it now I think his is a name to look out for. This collection of short stories won last year's Frank O'Connor Award - the richest prize in the world for short story writing - and each one of its five pieces is so fresh and original that surely that accolade is well-deserved.
The book's themes are love lost and found, lives self-contained or limited like a taut string, and these are played out in a variety of locations, with humour as well as pathos, and through language of delicacy, beauty and striking imagery.
Here's an extract which brought Dylan Thomas to mind for me: "... Sunday parked over the village like an old mute who hid his face in the hanging thick of clouds. The afternoon had seen heavy rain and the fields were soft. Tired and wet, lovesick Walter thought of the Sunday town streets, hymns and hot dinners, the starch and hiss of ironing; shoes polished and set down before the fire so that each shoe held a flame in its black belly; dogs barking at back doors. Early stars."
Elsewhere there are spiders' webs of words: perfectly, intricately constructed but apparently simple, silken passages which gradually draw the reader to the centre of the story. These are intriguing pieces, sometimes whimsical, never predictable, always engaging. I look forward to reading more by their author.