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A Bunch of Fives Kindle Edition
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I'd read just a couple of Helen Simpson's stories in anthologies prior to this 'best of', so this was very nearly all new to me. I found myself enjoying this more and more as I felt Simpson got into her stride in a subject matter - notably women with small and school age children not much covered in anything else I've read, and vividly rendered here - and in a way that provokes thought. I enjoyed most the stories from Yeah Right Get A Life, particularly Burns and the Bankers, which deals with a large work dinner at a ballroom style venue in a large hotel - also a subject matter I can't recollect being tackled in anything else I've read, and a very effective study of work/life balance issues, among much else. The excerpts from the fourth collection are all stories that touch on death, however - something of a surprise - and some of those from the fifth touch on climate change. Perhaps these too are little worked and interesting themes, but I tended to find them less gripping on the whole...
The introduction by the author is interesting - on why she writes short stories when novels sell better - and pointing out that her collections are all in print and many of her stories translated and have for example been dramatised on Radio 4 well after their first appearance. And undoubted success, then - and indeed, this is probably an excellent introduction to and cross-section of her work. I just think for me, perhaps one of the actual collections might have served my purposes better.
For anyone who enjoys short stories and doesn't know which book to pick, this is a good place to get a taste of Simpson's writing as well as some of her best work. "Diary of an Interesting Year" and "Festival of the Immortals" are particularly good, the former being about a woman surviving in a post-major climate change catastrophe world and the latter being a literary festival full of all the great writers of history, as if they never died!
Helen Simpson is an excellent short story writer and I recommend her books, but for anyone looking for a new book by her, there is no new material here.
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