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Thursday, 1 September 2016

Like Chalk – and Ashes?

Chalk Dust StoriesAn ageing, virginal spinster dies unexpectedly, leaving her dispirited suitor  to dine alone.

An orphaned bull calf is reared on bottled milk and treated as a family pet by its master -  only to be cruelly slain in the ring.

A teenage boy holidaying with his father, watches as he dies on the floor of their hotel room – and is then torn between his own family and the dead man’s lover. But while his relatives regard her as an intruder, is her fondness for the boy unhealthy? Do we dare to ask?

There is much talk of mortality in Chalk Dust: Stories **,  a collection  of seven short stories set in Portugal  and self-translated into English by their discerning author, Pedro Freire Costa.

This is no surprise as Costa, a professor at the Nova Medical School in Lisbon who completed his PhD degree in Bristol, UK, is but the latest in a long, illustrious line of celebrated doctors turned writers. Indeed, not only does his website refer to Anton Chekhov but I suggest his  profile picture  even makes him appear a modern mirror image of the Russian playwright!  Pedro Freire Costa

Further, like those of  Chekhov, life  for Costa’s characters is simultaneously hysterically funny and hopelessly sad: A village idiot is made far wiser than a farmer who gambles away his wife’s inheritance while  the final story - which reads like a version of a jokey urban myth  - portrays a group of inveterate card players who are forced to exhume a body in order to honour a bet.

I really enjoyed this collection and Costa is the sort of writer I’d love to meet in person. But I suggest that while the tales read very well, they lack the ultimate finesse of a native English speaker. Perhaps he’ll consider that for future publications.

** Chalk Dust: Stories is available in English translation on Kindle @ $0.99.

** I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

© Natalie Wood (01 September 2016)




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