Day 755: The Woman Who Had Imagination

Cover for The Woman Who Had ImaginationFor some reason, I have always associated HE Bates with such comic writers as PG Wodehouse and EF Benson. This notion was without having read him, mind. But the stories in The Woman Who Had Imagination are not at all what I expected.

Most of the stories in this collection are set in rural localities and are about ordinary country people. Many of them are closer to character sketches than plotted stories. “The Lily,” for example, describes Great-Uncle Silas, a lively, vulgar old man who likes his jokes and his “mouthful of wine.” A later story describes the circumstances of his death.

Many of the stories depict characters caught in their environments, such as “The Story Without an End,” which describes the life of a boy working in a restaurant who is terrified of his boss, or the title story about a bored young man on a church choir expedition who meets a young woman unhappy in her marriage.

link to NetgalleyAlthough the descriptions of rural settings are beautifully written, many of the stories in this collection depict the lives of people who are depressed by the limitations of their lives. However, that is not always the case. In “Sally Go Round the Moon,” a man helps his niece by marriage escape the life she hates in London and then decides to leave himself.

To give you a flavor of the lushness of these stories, here is part of the description of great-uncle Silas’ house from “The Lily”:

On summer days after rain the air was sweetly saturated with the fragrance of the pines, which mingled subtly with the exquisite honeysuckle scent, the strange vanilla heaviness from the creamy elderflowers in the garden hedge and the perfume of old pink and white crimped-double roses of forgotten names. It was very quiet there except for the soft, water-whispering sound of leaves and boughs, and the squabbling and singing of birds in the house-thatch and the trees.

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2 thoughts on “Day 755: The Woman Who Had Imagination

  1. Helen August 14, 2015 / 3:09 pm

    I read a different collection of short stories by HE Bates a few weeks ago and this one sounds very similar…more like character sketches than complete stories. I did like his descriptive writing but I was disappointed with the book because it wasn’t really what I had expected.

    • whatmeread August 14, 2015 / 3:14 pm

      I don’t know that I was disappointed. His writing was really good. But it’s true I wasn’t very interested in some of the stories. Maybe character sketches are what he mostly wrote. I think one problem is that sometimes he’s depicting types of country people who probably don’t exist anymore. When you read a character sketch of a type of person you recognize, it can make you laugh. I guess I felt neutral about this collection. The publisher must be bringing out a bunch of his collections at the same time. I’m having the same problem now reading stories by Shirley Jackson. Even though her stories are just placed in the 50’s, I think people have changed since then. Their mannerisms and concerns just don’t strike much of a bell with me.

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