Monday, 19 March 2012

Bex's Bookshelves: back from the grave

I know I said I would leave you in peace regarding my adventures in literature but I have just finished The Penguin Book of Modern British Short Stories and it was something of a revelation to me. A literary revelation is always a RTBC.

I have never been a reader of short stories but this book was a Christmas present from my Aunt Lindsay and Uncle Jacques, so on principle I had to read it. And thank goodness for principles, because I loved it. Almost all the stories were brilliant, but what I loved the most was not knowing what was waiting for me whenever I opened up the book. I knew many of the authors but even so I felt like I was reading blind, which was rather exciting. No expectations, only surprizes.

The one that struck the most personal chord was To Room Nineteen by Doris Lessing. First published in 1963, it begins with the "logical" decision of a happily married woman to give up her career and stay at home to raise her children. The story dissects her subsequent disintegration which ends in suicide. Some of the feelings expressed in the story were frighteningly close to how I feel at odd moments. Don't worry, this is not a cry for help, I do not feel suicidal. The difference being precisely that I have chosen to be a stay at home mum, and my decision was personal rather than logical. It was bizarrely reassuring to me to find my darker feelings shared. But I am so grateful to have had a choice. Although I imagine the day to day trials and tribulations of dealing with children have always been roughly the same, the strength we have to deal with them is greater because, the world and its ineffable ways notwithstanding, as twenty-first century women we have much greater control over our life choices.

Of course the real RTBC here, in the aftermath of the Proust debacle (no, I did not buy A la recherche du temps perdu), is that I have changed my mind about short stories. I am not an idiot. Hooray.

Anyone got any good short stories to recommend?


  1. Short stories are under-rated! I often find that I get quite attached to a character and involved in the story in just a few pages. And then it's over. A glimpse into their lives.

    Here are a selection of short story collections I have enjoyed:

    Family and a sense of place and belonging:
    -Homeland and Other Stories by Barbara Kingsolver

    Exotic and folksy:
    -The Stories of Eva Luna by Isabel Allende

    Simple. À le recherche du bonheur:
    -Odette Toulemonde et autres histoires d'Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt

    original in format and subject matter:
    -THe Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios by Yann Martel

    Touching, Characters "walk a tightrope between personal choice and family expectation".
    -Unaccustomed Earth by Jumpa Lahiti

    1. What a fantastic list of suggestions. Thank you so much for this my lovely! xxx


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