``An isobar,'' announces the title story in this brilliant collection, ``is an imaginary line connecting places of equal pressure on a map.'' Of course, the narrator adds, ``all lines on a map . . . are imaginary.'' Thus Hospital ( Charades ) begins her cartography, charting those landscapes of thought and memory in which discrete times and discrete places become inseparably joined. In ``The Second Coming of Come-by-Chance,'' for example, a drought leads to the discovery of a submerged city; an elderly local schoolteacher, meanwhile, is certain that her own buried secret--of her brutal rape years ago--will also be brought to light. A native of Australia who also lives and works in the U.S. and Canada, Hospital embellishes these psychological geographies with her sensitivity to physical settings. In some stories she uses supernatural elements to examine her characters' thought processes more explicitly: ``The Loss of Faith'' allows a man to glimpse his ex-wife on a New York City subway at the moment of her death in Australia. Hospital's extraordinary prose style, a model of elegant compression, is as restrained as it is resonant. (Sept.)
Australian-born author Hospital has earned critical praise for earlier efforts that include Charades ( LJ 1/89). This uneven collection of short stories is loosely connected by the title's suggested theme of connected memories (``And what is an isobar? An isobar is an imaginary line connecting places of equal pressure on a map''). A few of the stories of personal angst are poignant: in ``Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep'' a brother and sister share a sad walk and reflect on their troubled lives; in ``Queen of Pentacles, Nine of Swords'' a Canadian housewife ponders the wayward life of an Indian woman she met while telling fortunes. The settings are vivid, but many of the stories are self-consciously clever and unsatisfying. Of interest to Hospital fans.-- Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va.
The second collection of stories by Australian born Hospital contains 14 offerings, all previously published in literary periodicals. Her novels and previous collection have received many awards in Australia. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)