Review – Scope

May 14, 2009

In A Hatful of Cherries Felix Calvino offers the reader a charming taste of rural Spain and urban Australia. Born in Galicia in north-western Spain and later emigrating to Australia, the author’s background and life experiences are evident in this body of work.

Some stories in the collection are sweet, bitter, dark, rosy with the optimism of youth. Some are melancholy, mysterious. Others offer amusing or insightful glimpses of the everyday. All are rich with a sense of place, and plump with memorable characters.

Calvino’s words resonate with integrity and empathy. His writing style is lean, yet he uses original similes and metaphors to flesh out ideas and meanings in an appealing fashion. The reader can really visualise what the author is trying to convey in such vivid word-pictures as:

‘ … bristling like a scared echidna ...’

‘He wanted to teach him the trade which had passed through his family like an heirloom.’

‘ …she dropped like an apple from a tree …’ (of a swallow), and of the same bird:

‘How will she see in the dark?’ asked my sister at the dinner table.

‘The stars are her eyes,’ Grandpa said.

Many of the stories have a gentleness about them - even when the subject matter is far from gentle – and a reflective quality.

Not all stories will be to every reader’s taste, but that is the beauty of a collection: you can pick and choose, savour your favourites again and again or simply skip over those not quite to your liking.

While it is interesting and valuable to see your country from a ‘newcomer’s’ viewpoint, I confess I preferred the Spanish-based tales because they had the allure of far-off romantic places and conveyed something of the inhabitants’ customs, beliefs and attitudes. I’ve never visited the author’s country of birth. I don’t need to, for in this slim volume, he has brought that land and its people to me.

Whether his finely-drawn characters are bumping along a dirt track in Spain or cruising down Sydney’s Pitwater Road, they share the joys and sorrows, hopes and fears of people everywhere. They speak the universal language of the human heart.
This book adds to Australia’s literary treasure. Its contents join our collective memory, that part which stems from the stories migrants have brought – and continue to bring – to our shores whenever and wherever they sought new beginnings, another bite of the cherry.

Linda Stewart

Scope Vol 55 No 5, 2009

Scope : incorporating Fellowship news, the Brisbane