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Perfectly controlled, melancholy, poetic prose

Christmas and Other Love Stories

Kristien Hemmerechts

Love and what follows is the theme of this collection of ten stories: about the catastrophe ánd the tenderness of sex, about habit, love-hate, memory, selfpity, rollicking revenge.

In the opening story, ‘Christmas’, a man sets out to find a Christmas tree for his wife and is thrilled by the exceptional reward he gets for his efforts. The story is a genuine and endearing ode to love. In the closing – autobiographical – story, the author tries to find words for the unspeakable: the death of her two infant sons. ‘Fairytale’ is a key narrative, alluding to recurring themes, motifs, images and symbols in the work of Kristien Hemmerechts.

Her choice of words is dry and unadorned, her narrative tempo is high.
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The author fashions intriguing characters. Her matter-of-fact, razor-sharp descriptions of what is considered normal human behaviour lay bare the burlesque or even surrealistic nature of the apparently mundane. Her work dissects the mechanism by which we – mostly inadvertently – hurt one another. In spite of their shortcomings her characters have a capacity for tenderness.

A writer who manages to generalise personal things so that the other can fill in the emotion, deserves full praise.
‘Perfectly controlled, melancholy, poetic prose’
Maggie Gee, writer, professor creative writing

‘I first came across Kristien at one of the famous British Council Cambridge Seminars, held at a Cambridge college in 1982. We were both young women, and united by that – both struggling slightly with the sense of our youth in the presence of the older writers and administrators. Kristien read an enigmatic, beautifully paced story about a relationship between a young women and a man who was never stated to be gay, but was certainly ambivalent about sex with a woman. The phrase 'his big, soft cock' seemed shocking and exciting back then in a way that it would not today. There was a sense of quiet control that was impressive. Of all the writing I heard at that seminar, Kristien's is the only piece that has haunted me.

I was published by Faber at the time and when my editor, Robert McCrum, asked me to recommend young writers for Faber's new 'Introductions' series, Kristien's was the name that came to mind, and I was delighted when it was accepted.

In the meantime she has gone on to become a successful writer – as her perfectly controlled, melancholy, poetic prose with its edge of dry wit deserved. She was a distinguished writer even then, in her beginnings.’