Pewter Rose Press

The Hour Glass

by Hilary Spiers

Make time during a lunch hour or train journey for the stories in this collection by competition winner Hilary Spiers. Be transported from the life of an Hungarian emigré, to a child watching her parents splitting apart, through a street in World War Two and onto a house on the brink of collapse. Succinctly written with poignancy and wit, the stories explore an assortment of relationships, all of which leave their individual mark on the reader.

Read an extract here.

Readers' Group Discussion Topics

What people think of The Hour Glass

"The Hour Glass …brilliant: enticing, evocative, poignant ..."

Jeremy Gould

"At first glance, The Hour Glass seems as light as the froth on the top of my cappuccino. A book of bite-size stories to be dipped into in your lunch hour or coffee break; they are just the right length to savour over a sarnie. But do not be fooled by outward appearances. These stories may be brief, but light they most certainly are not.

Spiers is an author who looks mortality in the face and flicks the Vs . Her subjects are the very old and the very young, the dispossessed, the abused and the downright criminal. Take the eponymous first story in the collection: a heart-rending study of a child’s fear of her parents splitting up. Or the seemingly saccharine ‘Here’s looking at you’, the tale of an old man whose charity shop humiliation is softened by the discovery of a local tea-dance: beneath the vivid images and pacey narrative, lurk some chilly truths about the way we treat the vulnerable in our society.

These stories have been found in the unlikeliest of places. In the moments after a Blitz bombing when the air is still thick with plaster dust, or the return of a no-good father who can still manage to charm his daughter. In a marriage that is destined never to take place, or the reunion between a man and his child. Ancient secrets, the cold dish of revenge, gossip, rejection and shame, all feature heavily in this gem of a collection.

There is an irrepressible wit at play here, too: even the Brontes get a thorough send up in the crackpot, Restless Pillows. In Break, Break, Break, we are privy to a Faustian interlude in a house that is about to crumble into the sea. The old woman who owns it makes the deal, not because she is evil, selfish or even particularly bothered; but because she feels sorry for the vertigo-suffering devil. And any story that mentions the word, ‘titfer’ for hat gets my money - as does a character who refers to another as a ‘dribbler’ as she remembers having to clean the lino around the loo after he has been.

My favourite story of the lot, however, borrows the title of Edward Hopper’s famous painting, Nighthawks. Here, Spiers takes Hopper’s unfathomable characters and brings them to life. The hooker, that red-frocked, red-haired broad who looks as though she’s been around the block a few times, is plucked from the bleak nihilism of the canvas and given a backstory of high drama. This is fiction noir. The tension is built and maintained from the first to the last page. If the painting entices yet ultimately forbids engagement with the viewer, the story gives us satisfying characters who are revealed as what we suspected they were all along: the tart with a heart, the drunken bum, the bartender confidante. Maybe there is something a little clichéd about these characters, but who cares? Spiers’ Nighthawks is like a box of Milk Tray: you may know exactly what the orange cream will taste like, but that doesn’t make eating it any less of a joy.

The Hour Glass stays with you. Spiers uses the short story form to showcase some remarkable insights into the human condition. If there is a theme running through this book, then I leave it to Donald Vickers of Fiat Lux, the final story in the collection. Vickers is a Latin Master, who, on his final day of teaching is suddenly filled with fear about how he will fill his impending retirement. The pupils who have feared him all his working life, finally inspire him to face the future with an unprecedented sense of adventure. Spiers, like Vickers, knows and understands – ‘how quickly, how easily it can all be dismantled.’"

Nicky Harlow

"Hilary Spiers is a very talented writer, particularly so in the way she relates to ordinary men and women - their hopes and fears. She writes in a style that is always accessible and is powerful in its simplicity."

Prof John Barrett

"Fiat Lux … the dialogue between the teacher and the boys was so sharp …it made me laugh."

Clare Morall

"I loved reading them, and have that lovely fizzing in my mind as I think them over!"

Veronica Birch

"Hilary can create an entire world with a few well-chosen words.  Her characters stay with you long after the story ends."

Amanda Whittington