Poached Egg On Toast

by Frances Itani
ISBN: 0006393780

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A Review of: Poached Egg on Toast
by Angela Narth

It is said that to be truly an artist, one must learn to see the world through an artist's eye. In this collection of short stories, Frances Itani, an Ottawa-based writer who has published a previous book of short stories and a novel, as well as numerous articles and reviews, has managed to use her practiced artist's eye to peer into the very core of the human spirit.
Poached Egg on Toast is a compilation of twenty of Itani's best short pieces, each one every bit as moving as her 2003 award-winning novel Deafening, which claimed both the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, and the Drummer General's Award for Fiction.
>From the crippling silences in "Clayton", to her first published story "P'tit Village", in which we glimpse Quebec rural life of the fifties, Itani reminds us that being alive consists of more than just taking breaths.
In "Truth and Lies", the staccato-sharp story of a young mother trying to pursue the dream of becoming a writer, Evelyn conveys a subtle but undeniable hostility-against her husband for failing to understand her needs, against her small daughter for making hers so clear, and against her professors for not taking her seriously.
In "Foolery", the tone changes significantly. The main character is sitting with her dying sister Jess, recalling with bittersweet clarity, snippets from their shared childhood. In "Earthman Pointing", a wife is faced with the sudden recognition of her quirky husband's vulnerability.
>From the humorous to the profoundly sad, Itani creates a variety of moods with unfailing ease. She is so convincing a storyteller that it would be possible to believe she not only witnessed every scene she writes, but experienced them at the deepest levels. Her ability to get inside the skin of her characters is astonishing, allowing her to create believable, honest people who range from Clayton's eerily smug wife Zeta, to capable and confident Bridget in "Scenes From a Pension", to the bewildered Arthur in the collection's title piece.
Itani uses words to create a sense of place and time, but she accomplishes much more. She uses words to disturb: "There is no one to grab. No one to tell. There is only the answer of silence." And to caress: "I watch the surf rising under a gentle wind. I am in harmony here; everywhere I look, a rugged kind of beauty hovers on the rim of land and sea." This collection is a banquet of words and emotions, sure to whet the appetite for more from this perceptive, gifted writer.

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