In An Unrestored Woman, the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 cuts a jagged path through the lives of ordinary women and men, leaving ripples of sorrow through time and space. Each couplet of stories spans the Indian subcontinent, from refugee camps and torched trains to the spacious verandas of the British Raj, and billows into the wider world. An old woman recounts the murdering of what was most precious to her, and the many small cuts that led her to that act. A girl forced into prostitution wields patience as deftly as a weapon, and manages to escape her fate. An Indian servant falls in love with his employer, and spins a twisted web of deceit.
The characters in these fearless stories stumble – occasionally towards love, more often towards survival – and find that history, above all, is their truest and greatest opponent. And what emerges, in the midst of newly erected barriers, boundaries, and nations, is a journey into the centre of the only place that matters – the human heart.
Elizabeth Taylor is finally being recognised as an important British author: one of great subtlety, great compassion and great depth – Sarah Waters
Elizabeth Taylor, highly acclaimed author of classic novels such as Angel, A Game of Hide and Seek and Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont, is also renowned for her powerful, acutely observed stories. Here for the first time, the stories – including some only recently rediscovered – are collected in one volume. From the awkward passions of lonely holiday-makers to the anticipation of three school friends preparing for their first dance, from the minor jealousies and triumphs of marriage to tales of outsiders struggling to adapt to the genteel English countryside, with a delicate, witty touch Elizabeth Taylor illuminates the nuances of ordinary lives.
Books included in the VMC 40th anniversary series include: Frost in May by Antonia White; The Collected Stories of Grace Paley; Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault; The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter; The Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann; Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith; The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West; Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston; Heartburn by Nora Ephron; The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy; Memento Mori by Muriel Spark; A View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor; and Faces in the Water by Janet Frame
Here is a wonderful collection of short stories by the writer known for ‘the Mackay vision, suburban – as kitsch, as unexceptional, and yet as rich in history and wonder as a plain Victorian terrace house, its threshold radiant with tiling and stained-glass birds of paradise encased in leaded lights’ – Guardian.
Shena Mackay, who first came to fame before the age of twenty with two novellas, is the doyenne of the short form. In this volume of previously uncollected stories – including those read on radio – she constantly surprises with a view of the ordinary world that is not at all ordinary.
A grasshopper determinedly takes up residence on a bathroom ceiling; a gecko hiding in a cupboard brings a strange sort of luck; a woman spies from a distance two older women friends after many long years and a memory of how they gallopedin the playground as Starlight Blaze and Pepperpot plays sweetly, suddenly in her mind; pigs are swaddled in blankets, looking like babies in shawls; luggage is packed with youthful hopes and ideals.
She observes how people rub along and reveals the best and worst of us all: a disgruntled schoolboy and his hapless teacher conquer mountains and their antipathy for each other; a girl with green eyes and iridescent hair discovers revenge; a race to be the best mushroom-picker creates only losers; and rotten apples, in the right pair of hands, make a loving pie.
Shena Mackay is a generous and keen-eyed chronicler of the everyday; she deftly brings wisdom and humour to the worlds she creates, worlds that we suddenly, excitingly see anew. She is an utterly original writer.
FROM THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF REBECCA
*’One of the most shocking plot twists in all of literature. It hits you like a freight train’ GILLIAN FLYNN
John and Laura have come to Venice to try and escape the pain of their young daughter’s death. But when they encounter two old women who claim to have second sight, they find that instead of laying their ghosts to rest they become caught up in a train of increasingly strange and violent events.
The four other haunting, evocative stories in this volume also explore deep fears and longings, secrets and desires: a lonely teacher who investigates a mysterious American couple, a young woman confronting her father’s past, a party of pilgrims who meet disaster in Jerusalem and a scientist who harnesses the power of the mind to chilling effect.
A collection of short stories from the author of “Twenty One Poems” and “Three Poems”.
A. S. Byatt’s comment that Ruth Fainlight’s poems ‘combine Alice Munro’s virtues with something more archaic and also, in exact clear words, give us a truly new vision of usual and mysterious events’ can be applied with equal force to this collection of stories. Acutely precise and elegant, they move from vivid evocations of an American childhood and close studies of amoral expatriate life to erotic humour and black fantasy. The breakdown of a middle-aged man when the ghost of his mother, who perished in the Holocaust, returns to haunt him; the unexplained midnight arrival of three likely terrorists at the comfortable English village house of a university professor; a woman’s half-reluctant marriage to her daughter’s fiance: all these stories demonstrate Ruth Fainlight’s uncompromising subtlety of style, and the range of her sympathies and imagination.
By the bestselling author of The Talented Mr Ripley, Carol and Strangers on a Train
‘What is striking about these stories is their integrity: they are all of a piece . . . a brilliant collection’ – Sunday Times
Unsuspecting victims are devoured by their own obsessions in this perfectly chilling collection of short stories. A man becomes devoted to his pet snails, with fatal results.
A young nanny turns arsonist in a bid to become heroine of the hour. A boy finally stands up to his mother, with knife in hand. Highsmith weaves a world claustrophobic in its intensity, disturbing in its mundanity, as she probes the dark corners of the human psyche.
Eleven is a collection of masterpieces of Highsmith’s particular art, full of compulsion, foreboding and cruel pleasures.
Funny, irreverent, dark, and tender – a startling and sexy debut collection. Women (and men) cope with foreign marriages in Elena Lappin’s shrewd domestic comedies of the absurd, set in London, New York, and a constellation of European and Israeli cities. Transplanted across oceans and ensconced in strange houses where appliances malfunction and husbands are not what they seem, women like Noa, Vera, and Paula settle into lives of persistently unfamiliar routine, stirred up from time to time with a very crooked stick. In ‘Noa and Noah’, Noa, an Israeli, has been married for two years before her English improves and she realizes that her British husband, Noah, is not a glamorous young businessman but a dull junior debt collector. In revenge she begins to frequent a nonkosher butcher-and that’s just the beginning. Vera, a Russian, married to an unsuccessful British butler, takes to cab driving and extortion in ‘Peacock’; Paula, a German, married to her dead best friend’s husband, writes stories and snorts cocaine in ‘Bad Writing’. With perfect pitch and a poker face, Lappin writes insidiously funny tales about love and survival in an international no-man’s-land of marriage.
‘Bright, funny, satirical and relevant. . . . A new talent to watch!’ MARGARET ATWOOD (via Twitter)
This brilliant and bitingly funny novel-in-stories, set in and around a single crumbling apartment building in Soviet-era Ukraine, heralds the arrival of a major new talent.
A cast of unforgettable characters–citizens of the small industrial town of Kirovka–populate Maria Reva’s ingeniously entwined tales that span the chaotic years leading up to and immediately following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. Weaving the strands of the narrative together is an unforgettable, chameleon-like young woman named Zaya: an orphan turned beauty-pageant crasher who survives the extraordinary circumstances of her childhood through a compelling combination of ferocity, intelligence, stubbornness and wit.
Inspired by her own family’s history, Reva’s Good Citizens Need Not Fear takes us from paranoia to tenderness and back again, exploring what it is to be an individual amid the roiling forces of history.
‘A comic triumph’ GLOBE AND MAIL
‘Bang-on brilliant’ MIRIAM TOEWS
‘Luminous’ YANN MARTEL
‘Outstanding’ ANTHONY DOERR
‘Maria Reva’s enthralling debut of interlinked short stories achieves the double effect of timelessness and timeliness’ KAPKA KASSABOVA, GUARDIAN BOOK OF THE DAY
Do you cover up or reveal it all; seek revenge or just reassurance; let the truth be naked as the day or cloaked in a night-time story? The men and women of Polly Samson’s debut fiction all have stories to tell, pasts to forget, futures to forge. Manipulative or meek, used or using, all are aware of the power of truth, deception and little white lies to get what they want or sometimes what they deserve. Some are concerned with the economies of speech, those little ‘kindnesses’ which protect our loved ones but really ourselves; some investigate the warped logic which adults serve out to children to keep them ‘innocent’; all are concerned with the beds we make and the lies we tell in them. . .
By the bestselling author of The Talented Mr Ripley, Carol and Strangers on a Train
‘One of the exhilarating effects of reading Highsmith’s stories . . . is their surehandednes, their amazing breadth and abundance . . . they compel attention and they add significantly to her already formidable presence’ Washington Post
The stories collected in Mermaids on the Golf Course, first published in 1985, are among Patricia Highsmith’s most mature, psychologically penetrating works.
Published in the latter part of her career, these stories reveal Highsmith’s mastery of the short story form. Moving between locales as various as France, Mexico, Zurich, and New York, Highsmith transforms the mundane features of everyday life into an eerie backdrop for her penetrating stories of violence, secrecy, and madness.
In ‘The Stuff of Madness’, Christopher Waggoner, increasingly dismayed by his wife’s habit of preserving dead pets in their garden, enacts a devious revenge by adding a bizarre new exhibit to their collection; in the title story, a eminent economist’s brush with death endows his once-familiar desires with tragic consequences; and in ‘A Shot from Nowhere’, a young painter who witnesses a gruesome death on a vacant Mexican Street becomes trapped in an unimaginable nightmare.
In these piercing stories, Highsmith creates a world all the more frightening because we recognise it as our own…
By the author of The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace
This collection of short stories follows a woman at different points in her life, from the loneliness of childhood, the ardour and confusion of young adulthood, and the mortality we must all eventually face up to. Moral Disorder is Margaret Atwood at her very finest.
Praise for Moral Disorder:
‘Atwood entices us to flip through the photo album of a Canadian woman who closely resembles herself. Come here, sit beside me, she seems to say. Then she takes us on an emotional journey through loneliness, love, loss and old age’ Sarah Emily Miano, The Times
‘Atwood makes it look so easy, doing what she does best: tenderly dissecting the human heart . . . A marvellous writer’ Lee Langley, Daily Mail
‘A model of distillation, precision, clarity and detail . . . Atwood writes with compassion and intensity not only about her characters but also about the 20th century itself’ Mary Flanagan, Independent
By the author of THE HANDMAID’S TALE and ALIAS GRACE
A beautifully bizarre assortment of short stories and prose poems. Writing on an eclectic range of subjects from ‘Bread’ and ‘Strawberries’, to ‘Fainting’ and ‘Women’s Novels’, Margaret Atwood brings her astonishing world view to the comings and goings of ordinary life. The pretentious male chef is taken down a peg, a gang of cynical five year olds concoct a poisonous brew; and knowing when to stop is of deadly importance in a game of Murder in the Dark.
Praise for Murder in the Dark:
These vignettes glow with the usual Atwood magic of intelligence … an exhilarating performance, full of sharp pleasures for the mind -BRITISH BOOK NEWS
‘A brilliant and witty writer’ –COSMOPOLITAN
‘Direct, unpretentious, humorous’ -SUNDAY TIMES