Jemima Shore at the Sunny Grave and Other Stories Summary

Antonia Fraser

Jemima Shore at the Sunny Grave and Other Stories

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Fraser aficionados may find this latest of the author’s efforts a bit flat and contrived, a trifle disappointing compared to her previous work, most of it of tour de force quality. The trouble with JEMIMA SHORE AT THE SUNNY GRAVE AND OTHER STORIES is simply that Fraser’s style—first appealing, albeit wordily, trendy, then monotonously so—overshadows her plots, allowing the texture of her tales to coagulate like gruel instead of to nourish like fairytale porridge.

In the title story, an omniscient narrator tells how Jemima Shore comes to the fictitious Caribbean Bow Island on a business trip. Perhaps if Jemima, the protagonist, had told her own tale, the events would appear more lively. As written, the plot progresses awkwardly, the narrator telling that which would better be shown.

She writes, “It was not the sound of holiday for Jemima Shore, Investigator. Or not officially so. That was all to the good, Jemima being temperamentally one of those people whose best holidays combined some work with a good deal of pleasure. She could hardly believe it: Megalith Television, her employers, had actually agreed in principle to a programme which took her away from freezing Britain to the sunny Caribbean in late January.”

Similarly, in “Cry-By-Night,” another tale that occurs while Jemima takes advantage of a working holiday, Fraser tells too much, as though her readers might miss subtler messages. That story ends, “Jemima put out her hand and gently touched the older woman’s thin brown arm. She thought that what Martha had said was probably true: for this particular mother there could never be a real escape. Aloud, all she said was ’You didn’t really want that, Martha, did you? Up to the end, you wanted to protect her: she was your little girl.’”

Certainly JEMIMA SHORE AT THE SUNNY GRAVE provides some entertainment, but only rarely in these stories does Fraser attain her usual exemplary level.