Saturday, 19 July 2008

Dorset Stories by Sylvia Townsend Warner

A collection of STW short stories set in Chaldon and Maiden Newton. The Chaldon stories consider the cruelties of rural life in the 1930s, especially for the poor and the sick; the lonely death of Mr Kidd stands out among these. The Maiden Newton stories are centred around World War II's domestic front; the work of the WVS is mocked and celebrated. Two stories emphasise the rarity and value of domestic servants during this time; in Tabbish, a family treasure gains the upper hand of her mistress who relies on her not only for care and housekeeping, but uses the clothing coupons Tabbish never spends to curry social favour. The stories often expose the twists of power in apparently imbalanced relationships, the minor rebellions which perhaps make a general opression easier to bear. The pleasure of this book was rather marred by several printing errors, including one which changed a Miss to a Mrs halfway through a story, and had me leafing back to try and work out who she was.

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