Epigraphs are wonderful things. For her second collection of stories, the American author Elizabeth Tallent has looked to Edna O’Brien: ‘They chopped the wood, they lit the stove, they kept busy; there is always something to do in a house.’ It is true, of course; and indeed there is always something to do in the bourgeois marriage for the writer who tools along at the rate of one thoroughly explored emotion per paragraph. Thoroughness can be so terribly tiring.
These stories are set in England, and in the rural USA. Each stands up separately, but three strands run through the collection; characters appear, then reappear at a different juncture in their lives, so that we have the neat satisfactions of the short story form, and the weightier, more sustained