Sea Lovers by Valerie Martin
American writer Martin is not a household name, though her novel Property won the Orange Prize and an earlier one, Mary Reilly, was made into a film by Stephen Frears.
The 12 short stories in Sea Lovers are selected from work published over 30 years. Martin’s tone is coolly detached, but her observations are so perceptive and her descriptions so unerring the reader can’t help but marvel.
The middle section includes the brilliant His Blue Period, a tale of a dysfunctional love triangle set among struggling young artists in pre-gentrified Brooklyn. It has a slightly unlikely twist, true, but the world evoked is utterly convincing.
The last four stories, grouped under the heading Metamorphoses, are fantastical tales of creatures that are part human, part animal. I’m not a fan of magic realism but Martin’s fastidious prose almost converted me.