Since today is my last short story day of the year (I've been a dedicated short story reader for nearly every Sunday of this past year), I had wanted to pick something fun to read, maybe a new story from the New Yorker or something humorous, but I am a little behind in my plans. I was doing well, making progress in Wave me Goodbye, but then last week I (as usual) didn't get in as much reading time as I had hoped and didn't pick up this book even once. You probably thought you finally saw the back cover of it, didn't you? But with only three (well, three and a half if you count the rest of today) days left in 2008 and about a third of the book left to read, I'm afraid it's a few more WWII stories. I only wish I could speed read the last hundred or so pages, but I am hopeless when it comes to reading quickly.
I still plan on reading short stories next year, but I'll be approaching them in an entirely different manner (but more about that later). Still, I think I can manage to finish the last handful of stories before the year fizzles out, but you're going to have to bear with me just one more day. I still think this is an excellent collection even if it has taken me ages to read it (pretty standard for me really when it comes to short stories!).
Even though the collection is all war stories, it's not all dire reading. It's been interesting to read about the home front from a woman's perspective. Margery Sharp was a prolific writer of not only short stories, but novels for adults and children, as well as plays. She was popular in the 1930s both in the US and UK for her light comedies, and in "Night Engagement" she shows us that even through war life and love must go on. Where's a nice girl to find friends and more importantly a good beau when "shelter life" is just a constant passing through of people. You'd not think being bombed in a shelter (literally having the thing fall in on you) would be a good thing, but it is for Doris when she finally meets "ever such a nice young fellow".
Diana Gardner was a dedicated short story writer from the age of 11. Persephone Books has even published one of her story collections, which I will have to add to my list as I enjoyed "The Land Girl" enormously. With so many men off to war women not only filled their jobs in factories and other businesses, but on the land as well. It wasn't just the middle classes but upper class women also heard the call and did their part for the war effort. "The Land Girl" is told in first person quite effectively. Una is a young woman, but also a lady who works hard on the land, and though the farmer approves of her, the farmer's wife does not. Let's just say Una doesn't put up with any crap from anyone, and she takes her revenge. I'm not sure whether to account for her actions due to social class or youth--maybe a combination of both.
"The Sailor's Wife" by Anne Chadwick, was quite clever. It is an autobiographical story, as Chadwick herself was married to a sailor. The young woman who is the sailor's wife in the story is under pressure to find some sort of lodging for herself and her baby while her husband is at sea. She's followed him to the coast to be near him when he's on leave. Between an RAF station and a torpedo factory it seems there's not a spare room to be had as she goes from house to house knocking on doors and making enquiries. It just goes to show you how times have changed as the young woman was able to leave her baby in its pram with the hotel housemaid only to keep an eye on it (and if I read correctly the baby was even left out of doors!). So as time runs out and she can find no room (she must get back to her child), she's suddenly knocked down by a lorry. There's this wonderful scene as all the images and refusals run through her mind--you can just feel the tension she's been under. It's a blessing in disguise, however, as she's able to make a deal regarding a room with the lorry driver through a bit of finagling. It's always good to have a bit of leverage in cases like these.
I've really enjoyed reading short stories this year, and thanks to Kate's Short Story Reading Challenge for giving me the impetus to actually stick with a plan for once. I've discovered quite a few wonderful new (to me anyway) authors via their short stories. I've added names to my wishlist and story collections to my TBR piles. Hopefully I'll keep up the trend in 2009--there are certainly a fair few books and authors I want to get to.