Thursday, June 25, 2015

"Perfect Lives," by Polly Samson

I had never heard of the British novelist and short story writer, Polly Samson, but recently read a review of her new novel, “Kindness.” That novel is not yet at my local library, but I decided to sample one of her other books, “Perfect Lives” (Virago Press, 2010), a collection of short stories. I thought if I liked it, I would make the effort to find the new novel, and if not, not. Well, this is one of those cases where I am just on the line between yes and no. I enjoyed the stories, and they address some of the big issues – love, family, relationships – and some of the small events of everyday life – that I like reading about. But they seemed a bit “light”; they just didn’t have the substance I prefer. So I haven’t decided yet whether to pursue reading her new book, and perhaps her earlier books. A side note of interest: Samson is married to Pink Floyd member David Gilmour, and has been a co-writer of some of his, and Pink Floyd’s, songs. (My husband and I were great fans of Pink Floyd in the “early years” – theirs and ours!) Another side note, of even more interest to me, is that this book is published by Virago Press, the great feminist British publisher that rediscovered and published many “lost” (or at least badly neglected) women’s writings back in the 1970s and onward. It has undergone various changes in ownership and management, but is still proudly feminist and still publishes work by women and occasionally by male authors writing about feminist or female-related themes. I still remember reading some of the earliest Virago titles in the 1970s and being so grateful to the press for resuscitating and preserving some great writing by women. They included titles by Vera Brittain (whose “Testament of Youth” is now out as a film, one which I saw last week and highly recommend), Antonia White, Christina Stead, Dorothy Richardson, Winnifred Holtby, and many others. As a bonus, and a kind of statement of the value of these books, they were and are beautifully produced, with gorgeous covers.

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