A dark, dazzling, surprisingly funny new collection of stories ("Masterly" --Adam Mars Jones, The Observer ; "A virtuoso performance" --Jane Shilling, The Sunday Telegraph ) about single women and wives in various phases of midlife--anxious mothers, besotted mothers, beset mothers--in a (futile) search for security and consolation.
Helen Simpson's stories are short but by no means small. One story takes the Iraq war as its subject; another describes a smoker's reprieve from death by lung cancer; in another, a simple tale of home maintenance--a woman in a conversation with the carpenter replacing her door after a break-in--becomes a deftly sketched study of grief. In still another, Simpson manages the seemingly impossible--producing laughter at terminal illness and untimely death (this might be the first story in which the amputation of a limb provides a happy ending). And finally, the story entitled "Constitutional"--a pun on one of the word's meanings: a walk taken for the benefit of one's health--deals with memory, family, Alzheimer's, oak trees, pregnancy for the over-forties, stolen photographs, and crossword puzzles.
Helen Simpson's stories move and disturb us as they light up the human gift for making the best of it-- whatever it is.