William Sansom (SAN-suhm) wrote novels, essays, travel books, and children’s books, but he is also arguably one of the most important writers of short stories to emerge from England after World War II. He was born on January 18, 1912, in London, England, the son of Ernest Brooks and Mabel (Clark) Sansom. The product of a comfortable middle-class upbringing, Sansom attended Uppingham School. After he graduated in 1940 Sansom studied for a short while on the Continent, where he cultivated an interest in the arts. Without receiving a degree, Sansom returned to London after only a few months. Sansom worked in a bank for a short while before deciding to assist the fire department in the monumental task of putting out the fires caused by the Blitz of 1940-1941. His account of what he saw as an auxiliary fireman, in a book entitled Jim Braidy, marked the beginning of his literary career.
Sansom spent the next five years honing his skills as a short-story writer. In his first collection of short stories, Fireman Flower, Sansom once again attracted public attention through his vivid portrayal of the horrors of the bombing of London. The subjects and moods of these early stories focused on death and terror. Although Sansom was criticized for his wordy style, he was praised for the precision with which he analyzed character and motive.
Two more volumes of short stories came out in 1948. The stories collected in South center on the reactions of typical Englishmen to situations outside their normal realm of experience. The majority of the stories in Something Terrible, Something Lovely deal with characters who are thrust into horrible situations. The power of these stories is derived from the fact that they contain realistic descriptions of people and places.
Sansom’s first novel, The Body, is also the most highly praised. The Body is a psychological portrayal of Henry Bishop, a suburban Londoner who suspects his wife of twenty years of infidelity. Even though some...
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