Old-fashioned fun.



Early work by the author of Rebecca and other bestsellers, some written while du Maurier (1907-1989) was still in her teens, brings back the era when short stories were popular entertainment.

There are no impressionistic mood poems or anything else in the oblique, meticulously crafted style favored by creative-writing workshops in this collection. From the opening story of adultery and murder on a remote island (“East Wind”) to the closing narrative of a woman who sucks the life from everyone she knows, all the while asking “What is it that I do?” (“The Limpet”), du Maurier favors strong plots, overt irony and heavy foreshadowing. When the protagonist of “Nothing Hurts for Long,” waiting eagerly for her husband to return from three months in Berlin, listens to the confidences of a friend whose spouse wants a divorce and learns that the couple has been on the rocks “ever since he came back from America," readers can be quite sure the post-Berlin reunion will not be blissful. And only the narrator of “The Doll” can’t guess before his tale’s final pages the perverted nature of his beloved’s relationship with a life-sized mannequin she calls Julio. They may not be subtle, but all 13 stories are effective and gripping. “And Now to God the Father” is a scathing portrait of a smug, self-satisfied minister who worships nothing but social success. “Piccadilly” and “Mazie” paint a grim picture of a prostitute’s life. Two persuasive chronicles of love affairs going sour strike contrasting notes: one couple breaks up over the course of a grimly funny “Week-End,” while “And His Letters Grew Colder” takes six painful months to trace the downward spiral from a romance’s ardent beginning to the man’s cold-as-ice departure. Du Maurier’s prose style is serviceable, her understanding of human nature basic, but her storytelling gifts are formidable, and a good story is what was demanded by the mass-circulation magazines that published her. On that level, she never disappoints.

Old-fashioned fun.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-208034-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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