The Stories of Jane Gardam

Jane Gardham. Europa (Penguin, dist.), $24.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-60945-199-8
The 28 short stories in this magnificent selection from British author Gardam date from 1977 to 2007, and span the length of her career. Some of these stories are connected to novels: “Old Filth,” like Gardam’s signature novel of the same name, is about Sir Edward Feathers, a British lawyer who spent his working years in Hong Kong (the title refers to the acronym, “Failed in London? Try Hong Kong”). Now retired and living in Dorset, Feathers, a symbol of the decline of the British Empire, reflects on his past, though Gardam elevates the story above allegory. “Hetty Sleeping” follows a young mother on a seaside holiday, where she encounters a former lover; the result is supremely wistful. In “Lunch with Ruth Sykes,” the mousy, prim Mrs. Thessaly sets out for London to help her daughter mend a broken heart. Other stories have a surreal quality, like “The Great, Grand Soap-Water Kick,” in which a homeless man sneaks into a nice house for a bath. The title of “The Boy who Turned into a Bike” says it all. Odder is “Grace,” which begins: “Clockie Gosport had this great diamond in the back of his neck. Under the skin.” The full range of Gardam’s talents are on display here, and readers will feel lucky to have so much good writing in one place. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/21/2014
Release date: 06/03/2014
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