REVIEW by Jemma L King

NWR Issue 100

All the Souls, Stories of the Living and the Dead

by Mary-Ann Constantine

Apparently, the new ‘big thing’ in literature is ‘sick-lit’, a genre aimed at teenagers who would prefer Twilight if Edward happened to be dying of Marfan Syndrome or suchlike. Over the past decade, I’ve noticed a parallel surge in what you could term historical sick- lit for adults. Ian Pears’ weighty four-part novel, An Instance of the Fingerpost, for example, revels in its research into seventeenth-century blood transfusions and medical experiments. It’s a fascinating area, and despite my discomfort as to the attraction of such material (the media preoccupation with pandemics perhaps?) I’m as interested as the next person. Mary-Ann Constantine’s All The Souls is a collection of short stories, but its stand-out (almost) novella-length piece, ‘The Collectors’, taps into this curiosity by making leprosy a central theme.

Ostensibly, the story is about two doctors and a folklorist who join forces on a quest to prove that the condition still exists in a country, France, that has all but eradicated leprosy. This may not sound like buckets of fun, but actually, it is. Constantine’s prose is poetic and in opposition to the subject matter, exotic and beautiful....

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previous review: Then Spree
next review: Baader-Meinhof and the Novel, Narrative of the Nation/Fantasies of the Revolution, 1970-2010



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