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In-Flight Entertainment [Hardcover]

Helen Simpson
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 May 2010

Poignant, perceptive and dazzling, in this, her long awaited new collection, Helen Simpson offers acute portraits of lives in transition: of changes for the better, lives stalled and in freefall; of love, loss, and sudden revelations. Warm and funny, the stories are also threaded with a sense of anxiety and fear: of growing old, of commitment, and, most worryingly, of the growing threat to the environment.

In the title story, Alan, on a transatlantic flight, is delighted by an unusual upgrade to a first class seat, but is to find his journey disturbed by portents of doom; a family discussion over the fate of a trapped squirrel unexpectedly veers to nearly reveal a shocking truth; and a boy contemplates a parallel life after asking his mother for help with his creative writing homework.

Elsewhere Patrick, newly deaf and belligerent, is forced to re-examine his life with the help of a supernatural hearing aid; a profound, heartfelt and distracted prayer is offered for a friend's health and safety; and in 'The Festival of the Immortals', two old friends look back on their lives with joy and regret, as they wait to heckle Charlotte Brontë. Moving deftly between the domestic and the fantastical, from tragedy to comedy, this is a remarkable collection from a master of the genre; each story brilliantly realised, beautifully captured and utterly engrossing.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (6 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224089641
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224089647
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.2 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 577,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


`queen of domestic wryness'
--The Guardian

"...Simpson's art is...refined for being so seemingly effortless, unforced and entertaining." --New Statesman

"This collection is as brilliant as her previous ones." --The Lady

"The collection as a whole is carefully organised, with the lightest piece butting against the most death-haunted one..." --Guardian

"if its subject matter is undeniably uncheery, it is written with a lightness of touch - and a deep but understated poeticism' --Telegraph

One of the most sharply funny writers in England today -- The Times Literary Supplement

'Simpson's gifts are a lyrical vocabulary, an authoritative form, a special funny-sad quality and a subtlety of understanding' -- The Times

'When it comes to contemporary maestros of the short-story form, Helen Simpson is up there with Alice Munro...' -- Sunday Times

Book of a Lifetime. -- Independent

Short story credits In Flight Entertainment. -- Sunday Times magazine

`Helen Simpson rarely puts a foot wrong in these stories. She is a wry, humane and brilliant observer of our peculiar condition' --The Independent

'Clever and sharp'
--Daily Mail

'Short-story maestro Simpson has produced a collection that asks a central question'. --The Sunday Times

'Wickedly funny and painfully true.' --The Times

`Fasten your seatbelts and enjoy these first-class stories from the mistress of the genre.'

There isn't a word wasted in the whole book, a virtuoso series of variations on a theme...Simpson does not miss a trick. --Mail on Sunday, Max Davidson

`acerbic, humorous portraits of middle-class metropolitan life' --The Independent

Book Description

'A masterful contemporary exponent of the genre. Simpson now deserves to be compared with Flannery O'Connor and Alice Munro' Observer

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flying high 13 July 2010
By Sam Quixote TOP 50 REVIEWER
Helen Simpson's new book contains some of her usual searing portraits of middle class life with its marriages and children but differently from her other books this one chooses to focus a lot on global warming. The writing is top notch as always and her gift for storytelling is apparent in every story here. It's one of the best short story collections I've read in the last couple of years, which, despite its shortness, stays with you longer than it takes to read.

The title story concerns a socratic dialogue between two men in the first class section of plane. One is a global warming denier, the other a believer and moreoever a scientist who contributed to the studies into global warming. What follows are some dire warnings about whats to come: mass death, the loss of every facet of our priveleged existence, society breaking down into martial law, every man for themselves until the planet is unable to sustain human life on the surface anymore. It stays with you more for its surety in its doomsday portents and the vivid way Simpson describes it, and also because you hope it never comes to pass.

Similar stories follow in the book: "Ahead of the Pack" satirises corporate culture meshing with global warming warnings; "The Tipping Point" features a man unable to sustain his relationship with a woman who is obsessed with bringing peoples' attentions to the urgency of global warming; "Geography Boy" is similar, contrasting medieval visions of the end of the world as depicted in Revelation. "Diary of an Interesting Year" is maybe the best story here. It takes place in 2040 and is told in diary snippets by a woman living in Simpson's dire future. She fights for survival and all the action takes place in between the entries.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The reviews are right! An incredible collection 20 May 2011
Helen Simpson is the best short story writer of our time. This collection received well-deserved rave reviews, it is laugh-out-loud funny and poignantly relevant. As The Times review said 'dangerously close to perfection'. Read it!
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for everyone 12 Sep 2010
By Kazza
I bought this book because I'd read 'Diary of an Interesting Year' in a Sunday magazine and enjoyed it so much I talked to friends about it and passed it on for others to read. I hoped, by buying the book, that I was in for a treat with several more, interesting and engrossing, tales but found instead that it was a rant about the damage we're doing to the environment. Some people might consider the stories to be interesting studies but I found the book uncomfortably un-entertaining and was very pleased that I hadn't taken it for in flight entertainment!
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