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Very Good Second Novels

I have seen it said on many an occasion that authors suffer from the curse of the second novel, in which they try their best to write something as good as their first, but invariably fail.  I have come several examples where this is true (Diane Setterfield unfortunately springs to mind, as I absolutely adored The Thirteenth Tale, and very much disliked her second novel, Bellman and Black), but actually, have often found myself enjoying an author’s second novel even more than their first.  I felt that it might make a nice post to group together some thoughts on – and in the case that I have not written reviews and read the book some years ago, the blurb of – five second novels which I have very much admired, or been pleasantly surprised by.  I have tried to choose a diverse range of novels from different time periods to vary the post a little.

 

363750491. Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey (2018)
I really enjoyed Emma Healey’s debut novel, Elizabeth is Missing, and was thus rather keen to begin her second, Whistle in the Dark. What I found within its pages was an intriguing mystery, a cast of multilayered characters, and a very tight and controlled plot. Healey explores a fascinating family dynamic, which is threatened by various factors – namely the disappearance of teenage daughter Lana, which is the focus of the plot. I enjoyed the way in which Healey builds the novel, with longer chapters and smaller fragments, all of which reveal something.  Whistle in the Dark is so well pieced together, and I found it incredibly absorbing; it kept me up reading when I really should have been sleeping. I can’t wait to see what Healey comes up with next.

 

2. Uncle Paul by Celia Fremlin (1959)
Uncle Paul was the last remaining novel by Celia Fremlin which I had on my Kindle. I decided to start reading it on the way to Munich, and was gripped all the way through. I loved the opening of this, Fremlin’s second novel, and found the plot intriguing. The humour here worked well, and I found the dialogue to be both sharp and wonderfully controlled. I guessed the denouement from quite a way off, although it did not seem as though it had been well hidden. A great novel which certainly kept me guessing.

 

3. The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota (2015) 17824793
Sunjeev Sahota’s The Year of the Runaways is an urgent, momentous novel about the experience of three young men who immigrate from India to the United Kingdom in hope of finding work. From the very beginning, Sahota’s study of his characters is incredibly detailed. I loved the inclusion of so much cultural minutiae, and found that the use of words in different Indian dialects without their translations being given adds yet another layer to the whole. The story is incredibly evocative of place and space, and every single strand of story has been well pulled together. The way in which the different characters’ stories intertwined was clever.  The Year of the Runaways is a relatively slow novel, in the very best way. The backstories of each of Sahota’s characters are eminently believable, as are their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. The novel is so immersive that it becomes difficult to put down. The Year of the Runaways is an eye-opening book, and I felt so empathetic toward all of the protagonists, as well as their wider families. I read this important book with rapt attention, and cannot recommend it enough.

 

4. The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1922)
The heir to his grandfather’s considerable fortune, Anthony Patch is led astray from the path to gainful employment by the temptations and distractions of the 1920s Jazz Age. His descent into dissolution and profligacy is accelerated by his marriage to the attractive but turbulent Gloria, and the couple soon discover the dangerous flip side of a life of glamour and debauchery. Containing obvious parallels with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s own lives, the novel is a tragic examination of the pitfalls of greed and materialism and the transience of youth and beauty.

 

342732365. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (2017)
I very much enjoyed Celeste Ng’s thoughtful and thought-provoking debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, and looked forward to her newest publication, Little Fires Everywhere. Firstly, I very much liked Ng’s dedication, which reads: ‘To those who are on their own paths, setting little fires.’ With regard to the novel itself, the characters in their entirety have such depth to them, and interact so realistically. Ng held my interest throughout, dropping small clues and questions in as she went, and tying up the loose ends masterfully. She demonstrates a wonderful grasp of history and society, and her writing is always controlled.  Little Fires Everywhere tackles a whole host of important themes, and I could barely put it down.

 

Of course, there are so many more great novels which I could have included here!  Which are your favourite – and least favourite – second novels?  Have you read any of these, or the debut books by the authors mentioned?

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One From the Archive: ‘Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda’, edited by Jackson R. Bryer and Cathy W. Barks *****

Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda is one of the books which I have most looked forward to reading – ever, I think. I spotted it quite by chance in Cambridge Central Library whilst I was browsing the biography section, and may have given a tiny squeal of joy before snapping it up. To add to my excitement, it is also the favourite book of one of my absolute favourite musicians, Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. 9780747566014

The letters in Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda have never before been published in the same volume. The informative preface which the editors of the book, Jackson R. Bryer and Cathy W. Bates have penned, states the way in which they have chosen to adopt a chronological approach to present the correspondence of the husband and wife. This is certainly my preferred form for letter collections and works of non-fiction, and it has been used to great effect here.

Elements of biography can be found before each letter, and it is clear that Bryer and Bates have greatly respected the material which they have presented in the volume. So much thought has been put into how the letters are presented, and each section has a nicely written introduction, which sets out the point at which the lives of the Fitzgeralds were in each particular period. Eleanor Lanahan, the granddaughter of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, has written the introduction to Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda, and its inclusion feels so very fitting for a number of reasons. Her words are touching, and it is pleasing that she sets such stock by the work of her grandparents.

Throughout, I felt privileged to be able to read the correspondence of Scott and Zelda. Their letters to one another, even in the more troubled years of their marriage, are just darling. The prose is beautiful, the similes and metaphors gorgeous, and the spontaneity in each and every letter is marvellous. What characters both Scott and Zelda were, and how lucky we are as readers to be able to read their most private of works. I admire the way in which the editors have kept the original spellings and punctuation in the letters. The photographs and facsimiles of letters are a lovely addition to the text too.

The story of Scott and Zelda is often very sad, with Zelda being hospitalised for mental illness during the later years of her life, and Scott’s alcoholism, but their love is always there, no matter which situations they may find themselves in. Love is the enduring factor here, in all of its many forms.

Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda is a fascinating collection of correspondence, which continually exemplifies the depths of Scott and Zelda’s love for one another. Many of the letters here were penned by Zelda, and she writes beautifully. Some of the sentences which she crafts are breathtaking and heartfelt, such as this, written in November 1931:

“… if you will come back I will make the jasmine bloom and all the trees come out in flower and we will eat clouds for des[s]ert[,] bathe in the foam of the rain – and I will let you play with my pistol and you can win every golf game and I will make you a new suit from a blue hydrangea bush and shoes from pecan-shells and I’ll sew you a belt from leaves like maps of the world and you can always be the one that’s perfect.”

Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda comes highly recommended, and it is certainly a book which I will be purchasing my own copy of in future, so that I can read it all over again.

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‘I’d Die for You and Other Lost Stories’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald ****

All eighteen short fictions collected here were lost in one sense or another: physically lost, coming to light only recently; lost in the turbulence of Fitzgerald’s later life; lost to readers because his editors sometimes did not understand what he was trying to write. These fascinating stories offer a new insight into the arc of Fitzgerald’s career, and demonstrate his stylistic agility and imaginative power as a writer at the forefront of Modern literature. ‘There are ostensibly bleak currents running through these stories … but what really makes an impression is the humour… In the period he was writing these stories he talked of his desire to open up a “new vein” in his writing.’

9781471164705Like many fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald, I expect, I was very excited to get my hands on I’d Die for You and Other Lost Stories. Released last year, the volume is comprised of eighteen stories in all, including two uncollected fragments; they are the ‘last remaining unpublished short stories’ which will be published. Fitzgerald was prolific in writing short stories, and also a shrewd fellow; he recognised that he could make a great deal more money more quickly in selling them to magazines, than he could with writing and then serialising a full-length novel.

A lot of the tales in I’d Die for You were rejected by editors who had previously published his work; some are a little experimental, and veer away from the themes and character studies which seem characteristic of Fitzgerald’s prose. Each of the stories is preceded with details of its writing process, and details those magazines which Fitzgerald approached to publish them.

As I expected, some of the stories here are far better than others, but each has a lot to discover and discuss. Overall, the quality is unsurprisingly high, and it is fascinating to chart Fitzgerald’s progress as a short story writer. It is clear to the discerning reader that Fitzgerald refined early techniques over time, and a lot of these fragments and short stories are echoed within the likes of The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night. I’d Die for You is a must read for all fans of Fitzgerald’s longer work, and is sure to make the perfect gift.

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And Other Stories: ‘Babylon Revisited and Other Stories’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald ****

Fitzgerald is one of my favourite authors, and it will come as no surprise to many, I’m sure, that I will happily seize upon any of his works.  This one was purchased on Books Are My Bag day last year, when I found it in the wonderful Heffer’s bookshop in Cambridge, and had a wonderful excuse in which to buy it.  ‘Babylon Revisited’, the title story in this collection, is ‘considered one of Fitzgerald’s finest and most poignant pieces of short fiction’.  The beautiful Alma Classics edition which I read includes ‘a unique selection of other tales from the final period of the author’s career’, and is comprised of fifteen stories in all.

‘Babylon Revisited’ – first published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1931 – incorporates many echoes and elements of Fitzgerald’s own life, and is at once fascinating and sad to read.  It is set in 1930, in the aftermath of the 1929 Wall Street Crash and the midst of the Great Depression.  ‘Reformed alcoholic’ Charlie Wells is the protagonist of the piece.  The main thread of the story comes when he returns to Paris ‘to convince his in-laws to give him back the daughter he was forced to abandon’.  His daughter, Honoria, has been living with his sister-in-law and her family in a ‘warm and comfortably American’ apartment for a considerable time, and his wife has ‘escaped to a grave in Vermont’.  Charlie is, in all essence, a changed man; he astounds old friends whom he meets in the city with the very fact that he is sober: ‘They liked him because he was functioning, because he was serious; they wanted to see him because he was stronger than they were now, because they wanted to draw a certain sustenance from his strength’.

We as readers get the same sense of deja vu as Charlie does on revisiting the Parisian hotel in which he spent so much time; careful descriptions abound to create a vivid picture in the mind’s eye: ‘He was not really disappointed to find Paris was so empty.  But the stillness in the Ritz bar was strange and portentous.  It was not an American bar any more – he felt polite in it, and not as if he owned it…  Passing through the corridor, he heard only a single, bored voice in the once clamorous women’s room.  When he turned into the bar he travelled the twenty feet of green carpet with his eyes fixed straight ahead by old habit; and then, with his foot firmly on the rail, he turned and surveyed the room, encountering only a single pair of eyes that fluttered up from a newspaper in the corner’.  Throughout, Fitzgerald’s descriptions are sumptuous, and I was struck by the way in which he uses colour: ‘Outside, the fire-red, gas-blue, ghost-green signs shone smokily through the tranquil rain…  The Place de la Concorde moved by in pink majesty’.

As with Fitzgerald’s other work, Babylon Revisited and Other Stories is filled to the brim with splendid characterisation, gorgeous scenes, well-built emotion, and an ultimate air of believability.  Fitzgerald is so perceptive of his characters, whether young or old.  Honoria in ‘Babylon Revisited’, for example, is captured perfectly with just a few deft turns of phrase: ‘He waited in the dark street until she appeared, all warm and glowing, in the window above and kissed her fingers out into the night’.  Each and every one of the tales in this collection is perfectly plotted, and they are stunning in their own right.

A wealth of differing plots and settings have been used throughout; we have natural disasters, growing up, and poverty and its effects to name but three.  Fitzgerald also demonstrates how heavily engrained into society racism was.  Fitzgerald is a master of the short story form; one of his ultimate strengths lies in the way in which he succinctly weaves both a present and a past for each of his characters.  In this manner, it feels more often than not as though we as readers have been the companion of his protagonists throughout an entire novel, and not just a few pages of a story.

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The Jazz Age in Literature

I could have so easily filled a post about the Jazz Age in literature with books by my beloved F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Instead, I have chosen one Fitzgerald, two other works of fiction, and two pieces of non-fiction which I think sum up the period wonderfully.

Tales from the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald 9781492896227
Tales of the Jazz Age (1922) is a collection of eleven short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Divided into three separate parts, according to subject matter, it includes one of his better-known short stories, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” All of the stories had been published earlier, independently, in either Metropolitan Magazine (New York), Saturday Evening Post, Smart Set, or Collier’s.’

 

9780099286554Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald
‘One of the great literary curios of the twentieth century Save Me the Waltz is the first and only novel by the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. During the years when Fitzgerald was working on Tender is the Night, which many critics consider to be his masterpiece, Zelda Fitzgerald was preparing her own story, which strangely parallels the narrative of her husband, throwing a fascinating light on Scott Fitzgerald’s life and work. In its own right, it is a vivid and moving story: the confessional of a famous glamour girl of the affluent 1920s and an aspiring ballerina which captures the spirit of an era.’

 

Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin by Marion Meade 9780156030595
‘In her exuberant new work, Marion Meade presents a portrait of four extraordinary writers- Dorothy Parker, Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna St.Vincent Millay, and Edna Ferber – whose loves, lives, and literary endeavors embodied the spirit of the 1920s. These literary heroines did what they wanted and said what they thought, living wholly in the moment. They kicked open the door for twentieth-century women writers and set a new model for every woman trying to juggle the serious issues of economic independence, political power, and sexual freedom. Here are the social and literary triumphs and inevitably the penances paid: crumbled love affairs, abortions, depression, lost beauty, nervous breakdowns, and finally, overdoses and even madness. A vibrant mixture of literary scholarship, social history, and scandal, Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin is a rich evocation of a period that will forever intrigue and captivate us.’

 

9781843547785Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties by Lucy Moore
‘Bracketed by the catastrophes of the Great War and the Wall Street Crash, 1920s America was a place of drama, tension and hedonism. It glittered and seduced: jazz, flappers, wild all-night parties, the birth of Hollywood, and a glamorous gangster-led crime scene flourishing under prohibition. But the period was also punctuated by momentous events – the political show trials of Sacco and Vanzetti; the huge Ku Klux Klan march down Washington DC’s Pennsylvania Avenue – and it produced a splendid array of writers, musicians and film stars, from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Bessie Smith and Charlie Chaplin.’

 

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway 9780743297332
‘The quintessential novel of the Lost Generation, “The Sun Also Rises” is one of Ernest Hemingway s masterpieces and a classic example of his spare but powerful writing style. A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway s most unforgettable characters: Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. The story follows the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. ‘

 

 

Have you read any of these?  Which are your favourite Jazz Age books?

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The Gregory Peck-a-Long: ‘The Beautiful and Damned’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald **** (Classics Club #55)

Book number 55 on my Classics Club list is another by the wonderful F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned.  It slotted in with my reading plans with the lovely Belinda, and is thus part of this week’s Gregory Peck-a-long spectacular.

The heir to his grandfather’s relatively large fortune, protagonist Anthony Patch is ‘led astray from the path to gainful employment by the temptations of the 1920s Jazz Age.  His descent into dissolution and profligacy is accelerated by his marriage to the attractive but turbulent Gloria, and the couple soon discover the dangerous flip side of a life of glamour and debauchery’.  The gorgeous Alma Classics edition which I read heralds The Beautiful and Damned ‘a tragic examination of the pitfalls of greed and materialism and the transience of youth and beauty’.

The novel, Fitzgerald’s second, was published in 1922, and is split into three separate books.  It takes place in New York City, and paints rather a ‘satirical portrait of the Jazz Age’.  As with much of his fiction, The Beautiful and Damned contains parallels to the fascinating and rather heartbreaking lives of F. Scott and his wife, Zelda.  It is possible to see certain characteristics of Fitzgerald himself in his initial description of Anthony, for instance: ‘As you first see him he wonders frequently whether he is not without honour and slightly mad, a shameful and obscene thinness glistening on the surface of the world like oil on a clean pond, these occasions being varied, of course, with those in which he thinks himself rather an exceptional young man, thoroughly sophisticated, well adjusted to his environment and somewhat more significant than anyone else he knows’.

The writing is beautiful, as one might expect, and those sentences and paragraphs which focus upon the young couple are sublime.  One could easily imagine scenes such as the following featuring F. Scott and Zelda: ‘They were stars on this stage, each playing to an audience of two: the passion of their pretence created the actuality.  Here, finally, was the quintessence of self-expression – yet it was probable that for the most part their love expressed Gloria rather than Anthony.  He often felt like a scarcely tolerated guest at a party she was giving’.

The Beautiful and Damned does feel quite different to some of Fitzgerald’s later work, but it is possible – and rather enjoyable, too – to view the progression from one work to the next, and also to pinpoint those aspects of his writing which he bettered over time.  Whilst the prose itself is stylish, it does not always have the feel to it of a Fitzgerald novel, and perhaps lacks a little of the sparkle which I have come to expect from his stories.  There is something a little less tight about its feel than in his later novels, but it is certainly worth reading, and is a most enjoyable novel nonetheless.

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American Literature Month: ‘Save Me the Waltz’ by Zelda Fitzgerald **** (Classics Club #56)

I have wanted to read Zelda Fitzgerald’s Save Me the Waltz for years now, and truly have no reason as to why I have only just got around to it.  However, my lapse seems to have worked out nicely; as well as being an entry upon my Classics Club list, it is also a perfect choice for my American Literature Month.

First published in 1932, Save Me the Waltz is a highly autobiographical novel, written by the fascinating wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald.  The pair ‘grew increasingly erratic’ after the 1920s, and Zelda ‘became schizophrenic’; rather, her schizophrenia was recognised and defined.  During her first ‘mental crisis’ in 1930, she produced three short stories, as well as a libretto for a ballet.  After a period of partial recovery, she became seriously disturbed once more, and wrote Save Me the Waltz, her only novel, in just six weeks.  This was much to the envy of her husband, who had been working on the novel’s parallel, Tender is the Night, for over five years.  Of Save Me the Waltz, F. Scott said, ‘It is a good novel now; perhaps a very good novel – I am too close to tell’.

Southern Belle Alabama Beggs, the protagonist of the piece, is based upon Zelda, and her husband, a ‘promising artist’ named David Knight, finds his origins within F. Scott.  The history of the Beggs family is set out immediately, and is incredibly thorough: ‘”Those girls,” people said, “think they can do anything and get away with it”.  This was because of the sense of security they felt in their father.  He was a living fortress…  Inadequately equipped by his own father, Austin Beggs worked night and day in his cerebral laboratory to better provide for those who were his…  Austin loved Millie’s children with that detached tenderness and introspection peculiar to important men when confronting some relief of their youth, some memory of the days before they elected to be the instruments of their experience and not its result…  Austin might have borne a closer relation to his family had he not lost his boy in infancy’.

A lot of the situations which manifest themselves within the novel – Alabama’s belated efforts to succeed as a ballet dancer, for instance – have truth within the history of the real-life couple.  The introduction of the Penguin Modern Classics edition which I read states that: ‘Zelda Fitzgerald’s book emerges as much more than a document of spite.  It is a forceful, truthful picture of legendary marriage in a fabulous age: one of the most shattering self-portraits of a woman ever committed to paper’.  In F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Critical Portrait, Henry Dan Piper echoes this sentiment; he believes that writing this book was a ‘desperate and moving attempt to give order to her confused memories.  It was also a bitter attack on Fitzgerald, who was thinly disguised in her manuscript as “Amory Blaine” [the Fitzgerald-like hero of This Side of Paradise]’.

Whilst Save Me the Waltz was criticised on its initial publication in the United States, British reviewers in 1953 ‘greeted it with enthusiasm’.  In terms of viewing it as a complementary volume of sorts to Tender is the Night, the introduction says: ‘Readers of both books will notice parallels between points of fiction, especially in the Riviera scenes; and it is of absorbing interest to note the differences between the husband’s and the wife’s version of what was happening’.

Zelda’s writing is stunning, particularly with regard to her descriptions: ‘… insects swarm to the golden holocaust of the hall light.  Shadows brush the Southern night like heavy, impregnated maps soaking its oblivion back to the black heat whence it evolved’.  Gorgeous observations are made about her characters: ‘He verified himself in the mirror – pale hair like eighteenth-century moonlight and eyes like grottoes, the blue grotto, the green grotto, stalactites and malachites hanging about the dark pupil – as if he had taken an inventory of himself before leaving and was pleased to find himself complete’.  Our first glimpse of Alabama, too, is striking: ‘The girl had been filled with no interpretation of herself, having been born so late in the life of parents that humanity had already disassociated itself from their intimate consciousness and childhood became more of a concept than the child…  It was much later that the child, Alabama, came to realise that the bones of her father could indicate only her limitations’.

The way in which Zelda builds the relationship between Alabama and David is wonderful, and the entire novel is beautifully constructed.  There are some lovely, thought-provoking scenes and comments within it, and the whole is just as memorable as any of her husband’s more famous works.  Save Me the Waltz is poignant and sensual, as well as sensitively and understandingly wrought, and it is all the more fascinating when one keeps Tender is the Night in mind.

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Classics Club #50: ‘Babylon Revisited and Other Stories’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald ****

Fitzgerald is one of my favourite authors, and it will come as no surprise to many, I’m sure, that I will happily seize upon any of his works.  This one was purchased on Books Are My Bag day last year, when I found it in the wonderful Heffer’s bookshop in Cambridge, and had a wonderful excuse in which to buy it.  ‘Babylon Revisited’, the title story in this collection, is ‘considered one of Fitzgerald’s finest and most poignant pieces of short fiction’.  The beautiful Alma Classics edition which I read includes ‘a unique selection of other tales from the final period of the author’s career’, and is comprised of fifteen stories in all.

‘Babylon Revisited’ – first published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1931 – incorporates many echoes and elements of Fitzgerald’s own life, and is at once fascinating and sad to read.  It is set in 1930, in the aftermath of the 1929 Wall Street Crash and the midst of the Great Depression.  ‘Reformed alcoholic’ Charlie Wells is the protagonist of the piece.  The main thread of the story comes when he returns to Paris ‘to convince his in-laws to give him back the daughter he was forced to abandon’.  His daughter, Honoria, has been living with his sister-in-law and her family in a ‘warm and comfortably American’ apartment for a considerable time, and his wife has ‘escaped to a grave in Vermont’.  Charlie is, in all essence, a changed man; he astounds old friends whom he meets in the city with the very fact that he is sober: ‘They liked him because he was functioning, because he was serious; they wanted to see him because he was stronger than they were now, because they wanted to draw a certain sustenance from his strength’.

We as readers get the same sense of deja vu as Charlie does on revisiting the Parisian hotel in which he spent so much time; careful descriptions abound to create a vivid picture in the mind’s eye: ‘He was not really disappointed to find Paris was so empty.  But the stillness in the Ritz bar was strange and portentous.  It was not an American bar any more – he felt polite in it, and not as if he owned it…  Passing through the corridor, he heard only a single, bored voice in the once clamorous women’s room.  When he turned into the bar he travelled the twenty feet of green carpet with his eyes fixed straight ahead by old habit; and then, with his foot firmly on the rail, he turned and surveyed the room, encountering only a single pair of eyes that fluttered up from a newspaper in the corner’.  Throughout, Fitzgerald’s descriptions are sumptuous, and I was struck by the way in which he uses colour: ‘Outside, the fire-red, gas-blue, ghost-green signs shone smokily through the tranquil rain…  The Place de la Concorde moved by in pink majesty’.

As with Fitzgerald’s other work, Babylon Revisited and Other Stories is filled to the brim with splendid characterisation, gorgeous scenes, well-built emotion, and an ultimate air of believability.  Fitzgerald is so perceptive of his characters, whether young or old.  Honoria in ‘Babylon Revisited’, for example, is captured perfectly with just a few deft turns of phrase: ‘He waited in the dark street until she appeared, all warm and glowing, in the window above and kissed her fingers out into the night’.  Each and every one of the tales in this collection is perfectly plotted, and they are stunning in their own right.

A wealth of differing plots and settings have been used throughout; we have natural disasters, growing up, and poverty and its effects to name but three.  Fitzgerald also demonstrates how heavily engrained into society racism was.  Fitzgerald is a master of the short story form; one of his ultimate strengths lies in the way in which he succinctly weaves both a present and a past for each of his characters.  In this manner, it feels more often than not as though we as readers have been the companion of his protagonists throughout an entire novel, and not just a few pages of a story.

Purchase from The Book Depository