Published: 28/11/2016
ISBN: 9781785893827
Format: Paperback



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Listening for Water
& Other Stories
by Sandra Wallman

“His habit, and eventually ours, was not to draw attention to any of this. It was as if we’d agreed a kind of truce among us so we didn’t have to notice he was peculiar. If visitors asked about it we only shrugged. ‘That’s how he is’, we would say; ‘he listens for water…’”

Listening for Water is a fascinating collection of short stories which introduce a range of people mis-placed by migration or circumstance. Over the course of the nineteen tales, Sandra Wallman explores those moments of decision and encounter that make all the difference between salvation and disaster.

The title piece describes a good man’s life blighted by memories of a single failure. In others a group of Sunday strollers witness the leap of a girl from the Golden Gate Bridge; a Ugandan in France brings her own way of honouring the death of a neighbour; a woman discovers the limits of motherly love when tending to a very different kind of infant…

These stories are as varied in their style and themes as they are in their setting. Some have no geography, four are set in Africa, two in France, others span as wide as Germany, London, Amsterdam and San Francisco…

Listening for Water is fiction lit by its author’s ethnographic skill. In stories threaded with delicacy and humour, the edginess of life everywhere is richly observed.

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Books Monthly

I enjoyed reading the engagingly written nineteen vignettes about people and life in several cultures and countries. The author’s clear and confident literary style, incisive observations and deep understanding of the human condition, evoked personal experiences to draw me into the story and, in some cases, allowed me to conjure my own ending. I recommend the book as a good read.

by Ashok Khanna


I haven’t enjoyed a collection of short stories so much for a very long time and would have been thrilled if they had landed on my desk when I was reading and recommending books for publication during my working life at André Deutsch, publishers of Jean Rhys, Vidia Naipaul and Mollie Keane, among others. We would certainly have made an offer for Listening for Water. Unusually, the stories – many of them barely more than sketches, but sketches of a devastating clarity – are of a uniformly high standard. There are no duds among them though, of course, everyone is going to have their favourites. For me, ‘Molefi’s Moment’ which tells what happens when the Pope visits an African village and ‘Pa’s Chair’, the action of which could have happened in any London street are -- in their very different ways -- the most touching of all. Others are short and sharp, catching fleeting moments of drama in the lives of ordinary people. All are acutely observed and, as one would expect from an anthropologist, which was Sandra Wallman’s profession, understanding of the vagaries of human behaviour. Which also means, of course, that they are far from solemn. A book to keep and to give. Small, light, easy to post: the perfect present for a bookish friend.

by esther menell


 

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