A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman: Complete Short Stories

Margaret Drabble. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24 (208p) ISBN 978-0-547-55040-4
This collection from one of the United Kingdom's finest contemporary fiction writers reflects both the development of dame Drabble's work as well as the decades in which societal expectations for women–and women's expectations of themselves–were rapidly shifting. With the first story having originally been published in 1964 and the last in 2000, readers will enjoy following the leitmotifs of Drabble's worlds while also recognizing the evolution of her craft and the choices or her heroines. A marked consistency also defines Drabble's characters, though. Often complex, usually unsettled, these women defy compartmentalization. Nearly all also retain a constant inner-monologue, by which Drabble provides an intriguing contrast to the "show-don't-tell" mantra of so many American short story writers. The women in these stories do tell, at least to themselves, what they're feeling and thinking and wondering, even–or especially–when they're actions don't easily mirror their thoughts. "The Gifts of War," about a young mother so smitten with her young son that she's ignoring the abuses of her drunken husband, and "A Success Story," in which an established playwright turns down the advances of a celebrity but remains frank (with herself) about her desires, are particularly compelling. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/21/2011
Release date: 05/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
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