The wallcreeper by Nell Zink (Fourth Estate)


“I was looking at the map when Stephen swerved, hit the rock, and occasioned the miscarriage.”

A WALLCREEPER is a small, blue grey mountain bird, similar to a nuthatch except it has striking crimson wings which only show in flight.

Nell Zink skillfully uses the title imagery not least in hovering dispassionately above her heroine Tiff to record her whirlwind marriage to researcher geek and bird spotter Stephen.

The writing and plot are scaffold tight, the humour sharp as a beak.

“Tiffany, he said, that means a divine revelation. From Theophany.”

“It means a lampshade,” I said. “It is a way to get round the problem of putting your light under a bushel. The light and bushel are one.”

Three weeks later they are married. Stephen is not quite all he seems, and nor is she. “I was pretty bad as wives go”. We have a love story in reverse. They discover each other slowly after the event, almost an emo-detecto. The tempo is Ramones brisk. Her punchline at the end takes less than half a page.

Her characters are articulate; the imagery precise; the environmental backdrop in Berne and Berlin topical and relevant.

It is an accomplished piece which might/could have been one of those trashy me-and-my-sex tomes, or the underpinning how I-became-an-eco-warrior by mistake, but elegantly Zink weaves personal and professional together, a kind of literary Prada, or as it is set in Germany, say Oska, probably for sure wearing feathers.


About drewsmith28

Words, words, words...
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