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.
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.
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
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.