I think the beauty of a well-written short story, is that you can experience everything that a novel has to offer and experience it in a really short time. I appreciate the sense of fulfillment, as E. A. Poe put it, which you get from reading a tale in a single sitting.
When I picked up that little yellow book at the library, I had never even heard of this fantastic author. The pages looked and smelled rich and the book was small enough to fit into my tiny purse. I had already found the book I was looking for, and this one, I picked without giving it a thought. I had no idea what kind of surprise I was in for. The book is beautiful and I was fascinated right from the first tale, I read the collection in not more than a couple of hours.
Elementals: Stories of Fire and Ice by A. S. Byatt consists of six enchanting stories about passion and loneliness and love and hate, each of which transports you into a new world altogether.
The first story, and one of my favourites, in this fabulous collection is called Crocodile Tears. It is about a woman who escapes the pain of her husband's death by running off to some place, only to meet another person there, who is just as lost as her. It is abrupt and on the outside, strange, but underneath it is just a compelling combination of inner violence and outward detachment.
The story Cold is a Grimm-esque dark fairy tale, about how love changes you. It is the story of Princess Fiammarosa, the supposed descendant of an icewoman, who can only survive the heat of the day by dancing outside on the wintry cool nights.
There is also a surreal and comical story about a woman who loses herself in a shopping mall and that about an artist who finds inspiration in a beautiful monstrous snake-like creature.
A. S. Byatt is a wordsmith. She weaves together wonderful words and beautiful sounds to create a magical, poetic language which, together with the feelings that the stories invoke in you, leaves you enraptured. It is also a wonderful introduction to the author, before picking up her bigger works. If you like fantasy, art or magical realism, it is a must read!