Elizabeth Spencer (1921 ….)

The Adult Holiday

Taken from The Secret Self/2: Short Stories by Women, selected by Hermoine Lee (1987).

This captures exactly the silence that lies between a couple after they have fallen out, and the knowledge that at some point, one of them will break the silence. It’s also about mid life crisis and the fact that one hurts those closest to them.


Suniti Namjoshi (1941 ….)

Three Feminist Fables

The three feminist fables are entitled the Giantess, Of Cats and Bells, and Svayamvara, and are taken from The Secret Self/2: Short Stories by Women, selected by Hermione Lee (1987).

Born in Mubwai and living now in South West England, Sunitia Namjoshi is a poet and a fabulist and is best know for her collection entitled Feminist Fables published in 1981.

Trailer for Woody Allen film version of Svayamvara is here

Jane Gardam (1928 ….)

Stone Trees

Taken from The Penguin Book of Modern Women’s Short Stories  edited by Susan Hill (1991)

A story of grief, of reflection, memory and realisation.  The rhythm of this piece makes it almost essential to read it out loud, the repetitiveness of the phrasing echoing the  movement of the train at the start of the piece.  Is it really possible for someone to love someone so much that they can forgive them their continual indiscretions, especially when the evidence of one of those is asking you to clamber over stone trees on the sea shore.  Wondering why such an unlikely friendship has survived the years, and now being sort of glad it has.  One senses that even after the realisation, there will be forgiveness, acceptance and understanding of shared loss.


F Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)

Babylon Revisited (1935)

A story of boom and bust and the impact it had on lives.   Paris after the good time, a motherless child, a bitter sister, a regretful husband all form the backdrop for Charlie’s attempt to take back his daughter who has been cared for in Paris by Helen and Lincoln (hers aunt and uncle).

Sourced form Penguin Classis.

For more about F Scott Fitgerald go here

Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935)

The Yellow Wallpaper

It was only a matter of time before this story featured in my 365 stories selection and it’s my choice for this week’s Book Talk, so I’m very much looking forward to having the opportunity to discuss it tomorrow. I’ve read this story on numerous occasions and still love it. Why? Well, there’s the subject matter, the view of women at a point in history, the format (a series of brief diary entries), the language, the suggestion of the gothic and horror, and of course the yellow wallpaper. I challenge anyone not to get the idea of wallpaper taking on a life of its own, even without the added effect of postpartum psychosis.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman was an American feminist (Connecticut), a sociologist, and writer.  The Yellow Wallpaper is semi autobiographical.

Images of Gilman show a resemblance to another writer on the other side of the Atlantic, born a little later and dying earlier.   Gilman and Woolf have the same hairstyle and both have strong chins.  I’m not making anything of this just that it struck me instantly, and now I’m hunting for other connections – feminism, free-spirited, highly intelligent, took their own lives …..

I’ll get to Woolf, don’t worry.


Jessie Kesson (1916-1994)

Stormy Weather

Set in an orphanage, Kesson undoubtedly draws on her own life experience, born as she was in a workhouse in Inverness and brought up in an orphanage herself.  The small battles fought on a daily basis to safeguard small privileges and to survive the strict regime of the orphanage is the theme of the story.

I sourced the story from  guess where …. yes, the Penguin Book of Modern Women’s Short Stories, edited by Susan Hill (1991), but it was originally part of  collect entitled Where the Apple Ripens. Her best known novels are The White Bird Passes and Another Time, Another Place.

Caroline Blackwood (1931-1996)


Having read her obituary I started to see Addy a little differently.  Essentially a story about a dying dog and a woman coming to terms with her relationship with the dog (Addy) and with others in her life, there is an acerbic wit running through her writing that makes this more than just a story about a dying dog.  I’ve never read Blackwood before but think it’s time to put this right, although she hasn’t write a huge amount.

She sounds a fascinating character, married three times to the painter (Lucien Freud, the composer (Israel Citkovitz)) and the poet (Robert Lovell), and a startlingly attractive woman.

For more about Caroline Blackwood, her obituary is here