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Midsummer Night in the Workhouse

Athill, Diana
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Persephone Books Ltd
Published: April 14, 2011
ISBN: 9781903155820
208 pages

£14.00

A selection of short stories mostly written in the late 1950s: some are set in England and describe incidents from Diana Athill’s girlhood; one or two describe holidays abroad, almost all are seen fron the woman’s point of view. ‘In this terrific collection female characters are sexually adventurous, introspective and enjoy a drink or three,’ wrote the Daily Mail. ‘A cheating wife, back with her boring husband, is wracked with agonising love for the unavailable partner of her brief fling; a writer seeks inspiration at a writers’ retreat whilst avoiding the group seducer.’

First published in the America in 1962, the stories, which have never been re-published before, complement the memoirs (Instead of a LetterStet) and the recently published letters (Instead of a Book). When they were reviewed on Radio 3’s Night Waves Matthew Sweet called them ‘extremely good … written with brilliant precision and chilling honesty.’ And The Times said: ‘They reveal the same very mischievous and essentially humane sensibility that will be familiar to readers of Diana Athill’s memoirs. But their value goes far beyond their potential biographical contribution. In her capacity to calmly and cheerfully record deep sadness she ranks among the best writers of late twentieth century short stories.’

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