THE WOMAN NOVELIST AND OTHER STORIES by Diana Gardner

TheWomanNovelist&OtherStoriesLike GOODBYE MRS CRAVEN, Mollie Panter-Downes account of wartime Great Britain via short stories, Diana Gardner’s THE WOMAN NOVELIST AND OTHER STORIES, is also set in 1940s England.

But there the similarity ends, because Ms. Gardner’s stories have a very different quality from Ms Panter-Downes. Whereas the stories in GOODBYE MRS CRAVEN could best be described as a series of well-observed vignettes, the stories in THE WOMAN NOVELIST have more plot, and therefore more character development. THE LAND GIRL is a story of how a young woman manages the family she is staying with, so that the situation is more to her liking. MISS CARMICHAEL’S BED centers on a relationship between a lady and the woman who has come to work as her maid, and the mystery of what secrets the lady’s bed might contain. THE COUPLE FROM LONDON is about a mysterious death.

The tone of the writing is also very different. Ms. Panter-Downes writing has a definite attitude to it, one could almost say an edge, as her characters complain about various privations they have to undergo. Ms. Gardner’s stories are more gentle, more mild, and perhaps more even-handed. But it you wanted to be judgmental, you could also say that perhaps they are also less interesting than Ms. Panter-Downes because they lack her voice.

However, if you are interested in wartime Britain, or in English life in general, I recommend this volume. It is very British, and may shed some light on a country many people love, but don’t always understand. Four stars. A bookclub recommendation.

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