In-Flight Entertainment book review

Months, years even, go by and you may not read a short story collection Discuss this article

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Helen Simpson

Jonathan Cape

Months, years even, go by and you may not read a short story collection. Perhaps it’s because novels are meatier and more memorable? Or that story books have the whiff of schooldays? Simpson offers a solution to this dilemma. The 15 stories collected here are pithy, fast-paced, masterfully concocted and, above all, modern. Simpson visits the small domestic dramas of contemporary life and brings to them a calmness and old-fashioned wisdom.

Thus ‘I’m Sorry But I’ll Have to Let You Go’ is Hornby/Parsons/Bridget Jones without the confessionalism, and ‘Up at a Villa’ is a miniature The Pregnant Widow free from the authorial flab. One subject that surfaces repeatedly is the environment. At times this seems zeitgeisty and even preachy, but Simpson’s concerns are human, not scientific. Her ideas are not merely clever; they force us to reconsider assumptions and historicise our hysterias.

So, even if you’ve a novel on the go, and a dusty recollection of your last short story experience, give Simpson a read. These slight-seeming tales are seductively easy to read, but also give up substance and plenty of post-flight food for thought.

By Chris Moss
Time Out Dubai,

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