Gina Berriault Women in Their Beds: New and Selected Stories
Award: National Book Critics Circle Award
Berriault is an American novelist and short story writer.
For further information on her life and career, see CLC, Volume 54.
Writing about Women in Their Beds: New and Selected Stories (1996), Berriault's prizewinning collection, Tobin Harshaw asserted: "In these 35 stories, one struggles to find a sentence that is anything less than jewel-box perfect. And the author uses her gift for language to do more than show us the world through her characters' eyes; we are also forced to think about it from their point of view—no small feat for someone who favors third-person narration." A reviewer in Publishers Weekly stated: "Each story is constructed so gracefully that it's easy to overlook how carefully crafted Berriault's writing is. Her lilting, musical prose adds a sophisticated sheen to the truths she mines." Yet Berriault, who has been writing for more than three decades, is not widely known. She has, says Lynell George, "achieved the dubious distinction of a writer's writer, praised to the heavens in literary circles, but who moves outside of that orbit incognito." George, like many other critics, considers this an unfortunate situation for such a talented writer. "Her writing," he remarked, is "imbued with a haunting resonance, is like a secret accidentally spilled. A poltergeist, she moves lives off foundations, so doors don't shut as cleanly or securely as before." Utilizing some common, recurring themes, many of Berriault's short stories deal with the ambiguous feelings of failed relationships and the pain of loss. Many of the women in her stories are preyed upon by men. Yet Berriault does not resort to stock characters or stereotypical stories. Gary Amdahl said, "One of the most notable features of her work is the absence of categorization, of description by quick (lazy) reference. There are no brand names, trademarks, franchises, buzz words or jargon here, no free rides on fads, no trading on popular issues or current affairs." Amdahl concluded, "Berriault does not imitate, cater, affect or posture. She deepens reality, complements it and affords us the bliss of knowing, for a moment, what we cannot know."