Today I welcome France Book Tours back to my blog with an interesting collection of short stories. I invite you to read my review, enter to win your own copy of the book, and visit the other stops on the tour.
This is a unique, and at times bizarre, collection of stories that are set in Western Europe before, during and after World War II. The characters in the stories are not soldiers or directly fighting in the war, but their lives are in many ways deeply affected by the war. All of the stories are melancholy in tone and have a stream of consciousness feel with meandering narratives.
I enjoyed the story “Four Seasons” because it showed how this war affected citizens all over Europe. A British family is living on the coast of Italy and barely making ends meet as they are running a small printing business out of their home. This story is typical of the collection in that it has a melancholy tone and none of the characters seem happy with their lives.
The husband and wife barely interact with each other or their twin girls who are toddlers. When they hire a nanny who is an Italian girl that barely speaks English, they do not bother to get to know her very much either. As the outbreak of the war threatens, the family is forced to travel back to Britain and we are left wondering what might have happened to the family and their children’s caretaker.
In the “Moslem Wife,” we at first learn about the history of a husband and wife who are first cousins. They run a hotel on the French Riviera which they inherited from Netta’s parents. The narrative style of this story is typical of the whole collection in that wanders haplessly from one character to the next and sometimes feels rather random.
The author takes us through the stories of different characters who visit the hotel, including Jake’s mother, and the eccentric friends of Jake’s mother. When Jack ends up in America and cannot get back to Europe because of the war, their marriage undergoes an obvious strain. Will the couple end up together again after a long separation of five years? Will the war, like many things in Europe, destroy their relationship?
If you enjoy historical fiction set during World War II, then these stories are definitely worth giving a try. They are certainly unique among the vast array of short stories I have read and reviewed.
About The Author:
In 1952 Mavis Gallant (1922–2014) left a successful career as a journalist in Montreal to live independently as a writer of fiction in Europe. She had gained international recognition in 1951 when she was published in the New Yorker, which in subsequent years released over one hundred of her short stories, most of which are set in European cities or Montreal. Random House published twelve volumes of her work. Gallant was awarded the 1981 Governor General’s Award for Home Truths, the 2002 Rea Award for the Short Story, and the 2004 PEN/Nabokov Award for lifetime achievement. She was a companion of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest honor. After traveling widely in Europe, in 1960 Gallant settled in Paris, where she died in 2014. The Journals of Mavis Gallant: 1952–1969 is tentatively scheduled for publication by Alfred A. Knopf in 2015.
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