A PARTY FOR THE GIRLS: Six Stories by H.E. Bates


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Probably because the author is not a household word in this country, the six stories here make us think of other, more familiar writers. There's more than a hint of Thurber in ""A Party for the Girls"" and ""Death of a Huntsman,"" where mild-mannered men are bullied by women with ""goading"" or ""mocking"" voices. Katey, in the latter story, resembles a ""caged lioness"" and, with none-too-subtle symbolism, has an unnatural passion for slicing and cooking cucumbers. Meanwhile, the island settings of ""Summer in Salandar"" and ""White Wind"" evoke the stories of Somerset Maugham, especially in their theme of the tropics' effect on ""civilized"" men. But Bates has his own talent for revealing the dark side of life under the too-bright sun. These stories have a nice, spooky undercurrent: buzzards swoop down, a native girl hides in the black curtain of her long hair. The two most affecting pieces here have humble, countryside settings and deal with simple troths about love and loss of innocence. ""A Great Day for Bonzo,"" which has been made into a BBC film, concerns three children who encounter a suicidal stranger, walk a lost dog home, and reunite two desperate lovers all in the course of a day's ramblings. In ""The Mill,"" a young girl, numbed by poverty and brutality, learns a lesson that will last for life. Bates, who died in 1974, was a prolific and popular writer in England. His work reveals a sharp wit, a sure sense of story. Unfortunately, however, this collecti spreads itself thin. Its variety-pack approach may show his range of subject matter, but it doesn't always show him at his best. Ultimately, it saps its own strength.

Pub Date: April 28th, 1988
Publisher: New Directions