The Stories review: A haunting selection of prize-winning author Jane Gardam's finest work
4 / 5 stars
This collection of stories by Whitbread prize winner and Booker-nominee Jane Gardam will touch and resonate long after the last page has been turned.
From the author of Whitbread Prize winner The Hollow Land and Booker prize-shortlisted God On The Rocks comes The Stories. A collection of beautifully formed short stories in which 85-year-old Jane Gardam captures snapshots of life in effortless prose.
Jane, who was awarded an OBE in 2009 for services to literature, was selected for the 2014 Folio Prize, the only British author to be chosen. The Stories is a selection of her finest work, each one chosen by the author herself.
Themes of love, loss, friendship and revenge dominate throughout. The characters are tangible, their emotions utterly believable. From a colonial servant getting her own back on her masters to zoo animals having a rather strange chat when their keepers’ backs are turned, Gardam has an uncanny knack of making the reader believe each crafted story, from the realist to the fantastical.
"Lunch With Ruth Sykes" for example is particularly evocative. It portrays the darkness we sometimes feel towards those we are closest to. In this case it is the relationship between a mother and her daughter.
Gardam writes with wit, harnessing an expert use of dialogue to bring her characters to life. This is illustrated when she writes phonetically in the darkly humorous "The Great, Grand Soap-Water Kick."
"Hetty Sleeping" evokes the sense of longing each of us have felt at some point in our lives. While on holiday with her children, an old flame appears on the beach out of the blue. Although she is married it’s not long before all the old long-suppressed feelings between the two of them return.
As the story comes to an end with a dull sting of doubt and betrayal you can’t help but hope that Gardam is planning to write a sequel.
For those who prefer to sink their teeth into the kind of character and plot development only a novel can provide a collection of short stories may not be their cup of tea.
However written by arguably one of our greatest living writers the moments depicted in The Stories will certainly touch and resonate long after the last page has been turned.