Perhaps what the reader notices most consistently about Warner’s stories is their quiet, subtly mocking humor. Warner’s usually omniscient narrators possess an ironic detachment from their subjects, but the humor that results is never malicious. Warner rarely creates a character whom one dislikes intensely, although one may pity many of them who live lonely or otherwise circumscribed lives. Warner certainly knows her characters well; she knows what they think and the context in which they think, and only rarely does she strike a false note. These are characters who for the most part hold their emotions in check—as is proper for stories featuring so many middle-class English characters—but their inner lives carry subterranean force.
Warner also seems to relish creating the most authentic settings, as one can see in the infinite care with which the physical details and the atmosphere of the interior of an English church are evoked (“The Fifth of November”) or in the way that every small element that goes into the making of a nosegay is carefully described (“The Nosegay”). Social settings are evoked with equal care. “A Love Match,” for example, is a realistic portrayal of English village life and the changes it undergoes between the two world wars.
Warner’s stories exhibit such a range of characters and plots that it would be a distortion to claim that she possesses any special concern with the lot of women. Women in her...
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