Five stories from each of five collections from Helen Simpson.
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.
This isn't a new book by Helen Simpson, it's a "best of" collection of stories culled from her previous books: Four Bare Legs in a Bed, Dear George, Hey Yeah Right Get a Life, Constitutional, and In-Flight Entertainment.
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.
A wonderful collection of Helen Simpson's own favourite short stories over the years- she selected the bunch of fives. They are witty,fluently writen and often very funny. They should appeal particularly to women at all stages of their lives.