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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Enjoyable Collection, 11 May 2014
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This review is from: The Stories (Kindle Edition)
In Jane Gardam's introduction to this substantial anthology of her short stories, the author tells us that she has always preferred writing short stories to writing novels, because a short story can be:"a steady, timed flame like the lighting of a blow lamp on a building site full of dry tinder...short stories can burn up the chaff, harden the steel without comment or embellishment or explanation." The stories in this anthology need no explanation or embellishment - those who have read Jane Gardam's writing before will be aware of her economic yet vivid prose, and those who have not yet read her, will only need to read the first story to realize they are in the deft hands of a very good story writer. In fact the first story in the collection: 'Hetty Sleeping' is one of my favourites; in this tale we meet a young mother on holiday in Ireland who, while waiting for her banker husband to join her, meets up with an old flame, an artist, who has become famous in the ten years since she left him because of his philandering. The artist, Heneker Mann, begins a charm offensive, making friends with her two young children, telling her that she should not have given up her own painting and confessing that he has always remained in love with her. But does Hetty forget her marriage vows and fall for Heneker all over again?

In the story 'Lunch with Ruth Sykes' we meet the loving mother of Rosalind, a young doctor who is suffering from a broken heart. The mother treads carefully around her clever, heartbroken daughter, knowing that she is irritated and even ashamed by her mother's unsophisticated garrulousness - but, after a clandestine meeting with Rosalind's ex, and a night spent on her own in an hotel, the mother has her eyes opened in more ways than one. In 'The Sidmouth Letters', a story of morals, a brash American academic tries to buy some correspondence which might have been sent from Jane Austen to a possible suitor, only to find the opportunity slipping through his fat, grasping fingers; and in the poignant 'Rode By All With Pride' we read about Olivia, the dearly-loved child of a Wimbledon couple, Marjorie and Jack Partridge, both well-educated graduates (he achieved a First at Cambridge, she a Double First at Oxford) who are rather formidable parents for a sensitive only child. Smugly certain that Olivia will achieve academic brilliance and follow her parents to Oxbridge, they both have a terrible shock in store for them. Towards the end of the collection we also meet 'Old Filth' the protagonist of Jane Gardam's trilogy of full length novels:Old Filth; The Man In The Wooden Hat and Last Friends.

These twenty-eight beautifully written and original stories, which have been chosen by the author from over three decades of her work, are set mostly in the world of the educated middle-classes, but her characters are varied and although many of them may be firmly ensconced in middle England, others have links with far away places, or even, as in 'The Pangs of Love', are situated beneath the waves of the ocean, or as in 'A Spot of Gothic', somewhere in the world of the supernatural. Jane Gardam is very good at observing human nature and is well aware of the foibles of human behaviour and of the absurdities of life, as this impressive collection of short stories demonstrates. Although in common with most shorter fiction collections, some of these tales are more satisfying than others, they are all very good examples of the art of short story writing and I enjoyed reading each and every one of them.

4 Stars.

Please note that a number of these stories have appeared in previous short story collections and, if you are an admirer of Jane Gardam's work, you may have already read some of the stories in this anthology. If you click on the 'Look Inside' feature on the Kindle edition there is a Table of Contents showing the titles of the stories included in this collection.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 May 2014 08:33:26 BDT
cerrig says:
Now that, Susie B, is what I call a review. Good detail, no spoilers, an account of why you like the book and enough description to help me decide whether I will. (I'm sure I will.)
Many thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 May 2014 10:43:07 BDT
Susie B says:
Hi cerrig

Thank you so much for your kind comments - they are much appreciated. If you do decide to buy the book then I sincerely hope you enjoy the stories. Best wishes Susie.

Posted on 13 May 2014 19:06:22 BDT
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