The fourteen short stories in Jane Gardam’s The People on Privilege Hill take place in locations from the Vale of York to the Cape, include a variety of social groups, and describe the experiences of the very young as well as the aged. Gardam writes particularly well about the stifled emotion and dotty gentility associated with the English middle classes, and, after more than four decades of publishing fiction, her observation remains sharp and original. Ranging from a palm-reading that forebodes tragedy to an elderly woman’s passion for a gorilla in her local zoo, her new collection exemplifies Gardam’s zest for human oddity, which she explores with characteristic empathy and humour.
There are a number of recurrent themes, most noticeably the relationships between the generations, the effects of time on people and landscape, and spiritual revelation in everyday life. The title story (one of the most successful in the volume) draws on all three ideas, and re-introduces Sir Edward Feathers, QC,