Helen Dunmore


The Icon Room

Both chosen from the collection Ice cream, published 2000.

Youthful infatuation and impossible jumping fish, and an unlikely match in unlikely surroundings.  The strength of this collection is both in its quality of writing and its variety of themes, settings and characters.


Helen Dunmore

Mason’s Mini Break

Taken from the collection Ice Cream, 2000.

An arrogant Booker prize winner takes a mini break to Bronte company and has a surprising encounter within another author, one who definitely has the last (and first) word.

Helen Dunmore

Ice cream

Be Vigilant Rejoice, Eat Plenty

The Clear and Rolling Water

Living Out

Four more stories from Helen Dunmore’s 2000 collection entitled Ice Cream

A model who dares to eat ice-cream on her birthday, an estranged wife making best use of time as determined by a parking meter, a tragic story from what should have been a blissful childhood, and Ulli’s story.  All are satisfying in their own way,, although I’m wondering why the collection has been titled ‘Ice Cream’ as it’s certainly not the strongest story in the collection. Maybe though,  it’s because ice cream comes in many flavours and  this collection provides variety in both theme and style.

Helen Dunmore

My Polish Teacher’s Tie


You Stayed Awake with Me

The Fag

Leonardo, Michelangelo, Superstork

All taken from Ice Cream, published 2000.

Best known for her novels, I was keen to read this collection and so far haven’t been disappointed.  My Polish Teacher’s tie seemed particularly relevant to the here and now, and Leonardo, Michelangelo, Superstork seemed scarily possible.  The writing itself is multilayered – with plot, theme and what I’m calling the ‘click moment’ cleverly combined so you don’t realise how sophisticated the structure is until the end. The tick moment is the point at which as a reader, I feel the writer has nailed it and I get that satisfying feeling of all the different elements of the story slotting into place.  I’d be interested to know if Dunmore had planned it from the start, or whether it emerged as she wrote.

Meg Wolitzer

If You’re Happy and You Know It (after J D Salinger’s A Perfect Day for Banana Fish).

This story is part of McSweeney’s Cover Stories (issue 49), in which contemporary writers take a well known short story and, guess what, cover it.

I wondered how anyone would go about doing that for A Perfect Day for Banana Fish, and I’m pleased to say that, whilst it’s a faint shadow of the original, it’s not a mash up either.  it’s been simplified so the message is louder and more in your face and aspects of the story have been omitted. I hadn’t heard of Meg Wolitzer so wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’m off to google her now.

I’m not sure yet how I feel about cover stories in general, but I’m about to find out as I work my easy through the collection.