Maureen Daly Ellen Lewis Buell - Essay

Ellen Lewis Buell

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The nine short stories in ["Sixteen and Other Stories"] may not be so durable [as "Seventeenth Summer"] but the title piece … is cut from the same sturdy cloth. So also is "Love is a Summer Word." Each is charged with the intensity of youth and with the rueful awareness that first love is not always equal to the exigencies of the everyday world. There is a sense of irrevocable loss in "The Tall Grass," a quiet, beautifully stated mishap of childhood, and a fine example of the author's precise, sensuous observation of the natural world.

One is tempted to say that the most memorable of these stories are—like the tales of great lovers—the sad ones. But then there are "The Gift" and "Dust on the Pearls," vignettes drawn from Miss Daly's travels in Spain and Morocco, each happily resolved and each a testimony to love in a larger sense. Even though the tidy ending of "A Clean, Well-Lighted Tree House" left this reader not quite convinced, this tale offers an incisive approach to the problem of the over-solicitious stepmother. Whatever situation Miss Daly portrays she writes without condescension and with true empathy.

Ellen Lewis Buell, "Tales of Youth," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1961 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), June 25, 1961, p. 21.