Gina Berriault Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Gina Berriault authored five novels, The Descent (1960), Conference of Victims (1962), The Son (1966), The Lights of Earth (1984), and Afterwards: A Novel (1998). She also wrote a screenplay, adapted from her story of the same title, The Stone Boy (pr. 1984). The film version was directed by Christopher Cain.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Gina Berriault received numerous awards, including a fellowship from Centro Mexicano de Escritores, Mexico City, Mexico (1963), the National Book Critics Circle Award (1996), the Commonwealth Club Gold Medal and the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award (1997), and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the Rea Award (1997). She also received awards from The Paris Review, including the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, and her work has appeared in Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Amdahl, Gary. “Women in Their Beds.” The Nation (1996). Important review of Berriault’s work, which suggests she ought to be as familiar to readers as Toni Morrison or John Updike. Laments her lack of recognition, praises her as a writer who has written magnificently and consistently for forty years, and singles out the depth of understanding she brings to the creation of her characters.

Berriault, Gina. “An Interview with Gina Berriault.” Interview by Bonnie Lyons and Bill Oliver. Literary Review (Summer, 1994): 7, 14-23. Discusses Berriault’s childhood, her father, her favorite authors, her opinions of contemporary fiction, and the pressures on contemporary writers to evade or falsify the truth. Describing the purpose of her fiction as compassion and comprehension, Berriault also notes that, like all serious writers of fiction, she is a political writer.

Dubus, Andre. “The Infinite Passion of Expectation.” America (September 8, 1984). This important review by one of the finest contemporary American short-story writers praises this collection as the best book of short stories by a living American author.

Harshaw, Tobin. “Women in Their Beds.” New York Times Book Review (May 5, 1990): 22. Praises her gift for language, the complexity of her characterization, and her ability to engage the reader sympathetically in the crises her characters face. Faults Berriault’s stories for being too low-key.

Milton, Edith. “Lives that Touch Without Intimacy.” The New York Times Book Review (January 8, 1983). Positive review of The Infinite Passion of Expectation, describes the stories as flawless miniatures presenting paralyzed characters whose shattered expectations have led them to live in dreams or in the past rather than the present world.

Poore, Charles. “Books of the Times: The Moment of Truth Doesn’t Need Stretching.” The New York Times (September, 1965). Praises Berriault for finding originality in what otherwise might be seen as predictable subjects. Draws attention to her economy and her minimalist, open endings, her sympathetic picture of the down-and-out, and her satiric look at intellectual bohemia in the Bay Area.

Shelnutt, Eve, ed. “Almost Impossible.” In The Confidence Woman: Twenty-six Woman Writers at Work. Atlanta, Ga.: Longstreet Press, 1991. Insightful interview with Berriault in which she discusses the nature of writing, her own creative process, her identity as a woman writer, and her students’ reactions to her short stories.