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The Means of Escape [Paperback]

Penelope Fitzgerald
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
Price: 5.59 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

15 Oct 2001

A collection of Penelope Fitzgerald’s short stories.

Penelope Fitzgerald was one of the most highly-regarded writers on the English literary scene. Apart from Iris Murdoch, no other writer has been shortlisted so many times for the Booker. Her last novel, ‘The Blue Flower’, was the book of its year, garnering extraordinary acclaim in Britain, America and Europe.

This superb collection of stories, originally published in anthologies and newspapers, shows Penelope Fitzgerald at her very best. From the tale of a young boy in 17-century England who loses a precious keepsake and finds it frozen in a puddle of ice, to that of a group of buffoonish amateur Victorian painters on a trip to Brittany, these stories are characteristically wide ranging, enigmatic and very funny. They are each miniature studies of the endless absurdity of human behaviour.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo; New Ed edition (15 Oct 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007105010
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007105014
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 84,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Penelope Fitzgerald was one of the most elegant and distinctive voices in British fiction. Three of her novels, The Bookshop, The Beginning of Spring and The Gate of Angels have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She won the Prize in 1979 for Offshore. Her last novel, The Blue Flower, was the most admired novel of 1995, chosen no fewer than nineteen times in the press as the 'Book of the Year'. It won America's National Book Critics' Circle Award.
She died in April 2000, at the age of eighty three.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Penelope Fitzgerald said: "I do leave a lot out and trust the reader really to be able to understand it. My books are about twice the length when they're first finished, but I cut all of it out. It's just an insult to explain everything."

There are just eight stories in Penelope Fitzgerald's last book "The means Of Escape" but they are as invigorating and surprising as the novels. There is "The Axe", a tale of office life, redundancy and "a visitant which should not be walking but buried in the earth". The sense of the uncanny is also present in "Desideratus", where a young 17th-century boy loses a keepsake and then finds it in the hand of a cold-handed boy in the dark upper floors of a house called Watching. Fitzgerald's characters are also painfully, peculiarly real. Their foibles and eccentricities are described with a crisp truthfulness. The title story tells of a woman's encounter with a masked convict in a church. Alice smuggles him food, and the convict promises: "wait and trust, give me time, and I will send for you". He stows away, ironically, on a ship named Constancy, with Alice's housekeeper Mrs. Watson whose "motives for doing what she did--which taking into her account her intense affection for Alice, must have been complex enough--were never set down, and can only be guessed at".

Fitzgerald's novels are short; carefully researched details are used sparingly to create atmosphere and a historical context in her later fiction, whilst her earlier work drew on situations from her own life. But all her work has a fierce moral perspective, which isn't always easy to accept. Reading her fiction is like skating across a cool, elegant surface, and suddenly being plunged into icy, mysterious depths. Her prose style may be cunningly simple, but her meaning is sometimes very enigmatic. --Eithne Farry --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

‘Of all the novelists in English in the last quarter-century, she has the most inarguable claim on greatness. This is a small book, probably not above 25,000 words, but a remarkably rich one. It sets the seal on a career we, as readers, can only count ourselves lucky to have lived through.’ Philip Hensher, Spectator

‘So readable, so sharply tender, at the top of her form.’ Adam Mars-Jones, Observer

‘As succinct, droll and individual as Fitzgerald has, over the years, given us every right to expect.’ Sunday Times

‘Luminous, dark, unflinching.’ Hermione Lee, TLS

‘Eight masterpieces, polished and perfect, and with such mesmerising characters that each story is equal to any novel.’ Polly Samson, Independent ‘Books of the Year’


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A glorious final book 3 Nov 2000
Format:Paperback
The recent death of Penelope Fitzgerald is a sad loss to literature - her nine novels are all brief but perfect; the compression of her style into the short story works well too - the 8 pieces collected here are her only published stories, and show just how good she was. One of the 20th century's greatest writers.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not What Traditional Admirers May Expect 30 Nov 2002
By taking a rest HALL OF FAME
Format:Paperback
Ms. Penelope Fitzgerald was one of the greatest new authors that became known to me over the last year. While I have read all of her novels, I have read only one of her three non-fiction works. I have commented on all, and with one exception I wish she had started writing about 4 decades sooner than she did.

Her novels all had several common denominators, their quality, the scope contained in the length she used, and their length, or more accurately their lack of length. So when I encountered this book that offered 8 stories over a diminutive 117 pages, even as great an admirer as I was incredulous.

The 8 stories are not equal, some are extremely clever, and one or two seemed more like thoughts that were abruptly cut off. Some of her novels ended with the finality of a guillotine crashing down; however this was after a good bit of reading had been done. When the stories average out at 14 small pages each, the word abrupt is too tame. Two stories in particular stood out, "Desderatus" and "The Axe". Of these two one showed a side of this woman's writing I never expected. Stephen King easily could have placed "The Axe", in a collection of his short stories, and it would have fit beautifully. Had this woman made the decision she may have been a writer that brought us classics in the Genre of "Frankenstein" and "Dracula". Lights definitely go on and stay for, "The Axe".

This is not a five star work by this wonderful author. However I rate it as such for all the great writing she shared in her all too brief career. Taken as a whole this is probably a 3.5 to 4 star work. I miss the lady's exercising of her craft too much not to give the work 5 stars. Think of it as a thank you for all she gave readers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Means of Escape 26 Aug 2010
By trilby
Format:Paperback
Excellent service and the book was as advertised. As always a delight to read Penelope Fitzgerald, one of the great authors of the past 40 years. Her books should be part of any reader's library.She allows the reader to do some of the work themselves. Inevitably sorry when I come to the last page- each book is like rediscovering a friendship
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Means of Escape-Penelope Fitzgerald 22 Oct 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very interesting short stories with fascinating characters. Fitzgerald was an author I had not read before and was suggested to me by an avid fan. I chose this book as a 'taster' so to speak and now intend to read more of her work. Give her a try and you will be well rewarded.
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