As a novelist Rose Tremain is remarkable for the range and vibrancy of her fiction, her ability to move between form, time, gender and genre. Short stories are a perfect showcase for her talents. Her fifth collection, The American Lover, includes an anxious 19th-century fisherman, an imaginative evocation of a role model for Mrs Danvers, and a mother at a loss as her only child sets off for boarding school. It is a book that brims with inventiveness, and reading it one senses something of Tremain’s joy in storytelling.
Tremain’s focus is not especially joyous, however. She writes of people on the periphery: the stationmaster whose home becomes the scene of Tolstoy’s death; the student who never quite becomes her artist lover’s muse; the widow escaping her marauding daughter. There is a melancholic mood to these tales, matched by