Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

This selection by Sylvia Townsend Warner’s literary executors of forty-five of her short stories is taken from a period of forty-five years of her work, from 1932 to 1977. It represents only a small fraction of Warner’s output of short stories, which runs to fifteen volumes. At least one story is included from each of her volumes, starting with The Salutation (1932) and concluding with the posthumously published One Thing Leading to Another (1984).

According to William Maxwell—who was Warner’s editor at the The New Yorker, where many of her stories were first published—and Susanna Pinney, who jointly edited this selection, the stories are arranged thematically rather than chronologically. Pride of place is given to Warner’s finest story, “A Love Match,” which was awarded the Katherine Mansfield Menton Prize in 1968. This story and the five that follow (“Winter in the Air,” “Idenborough,” “The Foregone Conclusion,” “An Act of Reparation,” and “Lay a Garland on My Hearse”) all deal, in very different ways, with romantic relationships between men and women.

Thematic groupings are apparent in many of the remaining stories, which are notable for their diversity. There is a group of four stories (“Absolom, My Son,” “Boors Carousing,” “On Living for Others,” and “Plutarco Roo”) that have artists, composers, and writers as their protagonists. “Shadwell” and “Property...

(The entire section is 516 words.)