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Review: The Skiers, by Jill Bialosky

Jill Bialosky's selection, taken from her three acclaimed American publications, is available together for the first time in Britain. The work derives its edge from a voice not so much restrained as steely or, as one commentator has described it, 'courageous'. In the first book, 'The End of Desire', acute observations of childhood and growing-up are even-toned. But things are going awry. A younger sister closes the garage door and turns on the ignition of her mother's car:

On a day less remembered
for the violent rain
than for how little was the same as before,
the sky closed its eyes on our house
as if in shame and claimed her.

Throughout the selection there is cold and darkness and secrecy, and anguish about perils real or imagined, but also solid empathy with people and situations. The edginess is more marked in the second book, 'Subterranean', which centres on birth and fertility, and the third, 'Intruder', contains the title poem, a sequence of fourteen-line stanzas plotting the break-up of a relationship as a couple lose their way in a winter landscape both real and figurative:

Is there any light left in the cold mountain's
interior? The wind does not subside.