Any reader of Ellen Gilchrist’s fiction quickly comes to recognize some of her people, places, and preoccupations. She writes about women, very often about wealthy southern women who are coming to terms with their own boredom and self-indulgence. Sometimes she writes about creative women, writers and poets and scholars whose impulses lead them into tight situations from which only drastic actions can rescue them. In fact, desperate circumstances—pregnancy, even murder—mark the central action of many Gilchrist stories. Gilchrist also peoples her fiction with children, particularly adolescent girls whose growing self-awareness and sexuality often draw them into the sort of circumstances their creator most enjoys exploring.
Gilchrist frequently revisits favorite characters at several ages in their lives, so that reading successive stories about them becomes a bit like reading a short novel. In fact, Gilchrist frequently interweaves motifs, linking stories within as well as across collections. In her work, characters appear and reappear from one collection to the next, sometimes with new names, sometimes with slightly different families or backgrounds, but always with recognizable characteristics that take on greater depth as the reader sees them from multiple angles. Gilchrist treats settings the same way, using real geographic detail about places such as New Orleans, California, or Charlotte, North Carolina, to create the canvas on which she works,...
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