Friday, September 19, 2014

"The Stories of Jane Gardam"

I finished reading “The Stories of Jane Gardam” (Europa Editions, 2014) a couple of weeks ago, but haven’t written about it yet because I fear I can’t possibly adequately convey how wonderful these stories, selected from her collections over the years, are. Readers of this blog may remember that I have written about British writer Gardam’s work before. I wrote about the first two novels of her great “Old Filth” trilogy (3/18/10), her novel “Crusoe’s Daughter” (6/3/12), and the third novel in the aforementioned trilogy (6/22/13). As I wrote on 6/22/13, Gardam “is quite simply a genius in the strength and depth of her writing, and in the way she captures this particular world and the nuances of the characteristics of each person, and the relationships among them. Her writing is evocative but never sentimental; it is descriptive without going overboard; she involves readers without pandering to them.” As I think about her writing after reading “The Stories,” one adjective that occurs to me is “bracing.” The stories are powerful, energizing, and somehow make the reader feel fortunate to be part of the experience of Gardam’s world. There are a couple of stories that I liked less because of the elements of whimsy or fantasy or experimentalism, but only because of my own tastes in literature. The overwhelming majority of the 28 stories are wonderful, original, thought-provoking, written with such control, and pure joy to read. A couple of the stories show the originals of later novels, such as the story titled “Old Filth” (“Failed in Hong Kong Try London”). The stories such as “Old Filth” that focus on lives of British colonials and expatriates are of particular interest to me because of my background growing up in India, and my own research and writing on the experiences of Third Culture Kids, including missionary children. Gardam, who is 86 years old, has given us an amazing wealth of great writing, and seems to be going strong, still writing. I look forward to reading her future work.
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