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Author: Helen Simpson
"These stories are bursting with beautifully described reality…"
People have joked that the stories in this collection may be the ultimate contraceptive; I disagree. Parenthood is, to purloin Dickens, the best of times and the worst of times, and Simpson herself notes that parents can ‘be very happy and very miserable at the same time’ (The Guardian, 2012). The title story traces Dorrie’s day, from an ‘early morning garden’ to ‘a midnight kitchen.’ The language in this story is poetic and fresh; Dorrie is ‘broken… into little pieces like a biscuit’ and ‘scattered all over the place,’ while the children live through ‘as many variants of passion as occur in the average Shakespeare play’ before they go downstairs for breakfast. When Dorrie’s son, Robin climbs into his parents’ bed in the morning, his eyes are described as ‘guileless, unguarded and intent,’ he gives ‘a little beatific smile,’ and his chest is ‘like a huge warm baroque pearl.’ This story is replete with keenly observed, humorous dialogue, from the judgements of the mothers at the school gate: ‘Look at her nails… you can always tell. Painted fingernails mean a rubbish mother,’ to the children’s unsuitable meal time conversation: ‘Kosenia scratched her bandage off today, and she’s got eczema, and she scratched it off, you know, that stuff on top, like the cheese on the Shepherd’s Pie, she just lifted it off.’ Simpson also depicts the loneliness and confinement of parenthood. Dorrie feels that she has, ‘schooled herself to harmlessness, constant usefulness to others… [she is] a big fat zero,’ and husband Max bemoans the loss of his ‘lively and sparky’ wife; he feels burdened by his three children, by ‘the whole pack of them on his back.’
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