Charting tantrums, funerals, pregnancy, war and love affairs, these stories unroll with piercing wit and sympathy. One woman finds grief for her lost lover is assuaged by involvement in some carpentry repair work. Another grows increasingly angry as the grim reaper scythes through her circle, with farcical and tragic results.
Elsewhere, a foreign correspondent receives an unwanted ultimatum, a south London builder avenges the duping of his adored mother, and a chlorinated changing-room encounter brings about a much-needed break with the past. And in the title story, a circular walk on Hampstead Heath leads to revelations involving feats of memory, a Shakespearian heroine, crossword clues, nonagenarians, and new life.
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It's a safe bet that...this slim volume will be hailed as a book of the year. Helen Simpson's short stories are the real thing...one of our most talented writers has produced a collection to savour - Daily Mail
A justly acclaimed expert at the short story form, Simpson deftly weaves in humour with the miserable subjects of spiritual and physical death, to give us a rich tapestry of life's best and worst moments - Sunday Herald
A masterful contemporary exponent of the genre. Simpson now deserves to be compared with Flannery O'Connor and Alice Munro - Observer
[H]er stories come laced with such wit, dark humour and an ear for dialogue that's as sharp as Alan Bennett's - Scotsman
Simpson's use of language is remarkable: she handles prose with the risky precision of a trapeze artist, swooping and tumbling through empty air, seeming certain at moments to succumb to whimsy or sentimentality but at the last moment recovering her grasp on the deftly constructed framework of her narratives. It's a virtuoso performance; its effect on the reader both consoling and exhilarating - Sunday Telegraph
She is a virtuoso... Briskly melancholic, dazzlingly pertinent short stories about women's lives and how they survive - Sunday Times
Subtle, emotional, humorous, painful and acute... It's a small masterpiece - Independent
Together with the biting humour, there is aching sadness and real tenderness, making this collection up there with the best of this genre - Sunday Express
The brilliance of the conceits and the complex economy that shapes the best of these tales, match and surpass any of Helen Simpson's earlier writing - Guardian
It is impossible to read a short story by Helen Simpson and not feel that it is describing the inner strains of your own life... Both bracing and essential - New Statesman
Helen Simpson is the author of Four Bare Legs in a Bed, Dear George, Hey Yeah Right Get a Life, In-Flight Entertainment and A Bunch of Fives. In 1991 she was chosen as the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year and won the Somerset Maugham Award. In 1993 she was chosen as one of Granta's twenty Best of Young British Novelists. She has also received the Hawthornden prize, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters' E.M. Forster Award. She lives in London.