The Means of Escape

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9780007100309: The Means of Escape

A collection of short stories from ‘one of the finest and most entertaining novelists writing in England today’ (Observer)

Penelope Fitzgerald is, now more than ever, one of the most highly-regarded writers on the English literary scene. Apart from Iris Murdoch no other writer has been shortlisted for the Booker more often than Penelope Fitzgerald.

PF’s last novel, The Blue Flower, was the book of its year, garnering extraordinary acclaim in Britain, America and Europe.

These stories have all been published before, but in newspapers, journals and British Council-sponsored volumes of new writing.
So – even the most dedicated Fitzgerald fans are unlikely to have come across them. This is the first time they will have been collected together in volume form.

From the tale of a young boy in seventeenth-century England who loses a precious keepsake and finds it frozen in a puddle of ice, to that of a group of buffoonish amateur Victorian painters on a trip to Brittany, these stories are characteristically wide-ranging, enigmatic and very funny. They are each miniature studies of the endless absurdity of human behaviour, seen simultaneously with Fitzgerald’s generous, but unwavering moral gaze.

This collection is an absolute treat. You will never read a better collection. Fitzgerald’s ability to capture an entire world in a story of only eight pages is unsurpassable.

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Review:

Penelope Fitzgerald said: "I do leave a lot out and trust the reader really to be able to understand it. My books are about twice the length when they're first finished, but I cut all of it out. It's just an insult to explain everything."

There are just eight stories in Penelope Fitzgerald's last book "The means Of Escape" but they are as invigorating and surprising as the novels. There is "The Axe", a tale of office life, redundancy and "a visitant which should not be walking but buried in the earth". The sense of the uncanny is also present in "Desideratus", where a young 17th-century boy loses a keepsake and then finds it in the hand of a cold-handed boy in the dark upper floors of a house called Watching. Fitzgerald's characters are also painfully, peculiarly real. Their foibles and eccentricities are described with a crisp truthfulness. The title story tells of a woman's encounter with a masked convict in a church. Alice smuggles him food, and the convict promises: "wait and trust, give me time, and I will send for you". He stows away, ironically, on a ship named Constancy, with Alice's housekeeper Mrs. Watson whose "motives for doing what she did--which taking into her account her intense affection for Alice, must have been complex enough--were never set down, and can only be guessed at".

Fitzgerald's novels are short; carefully researched details are used sparingly to create atmosphere and a historical context in her later fiction, whilst her earlier work drew on situations from her own life. But all her work has a fierce moral perspective, which isn't always easy to accept. Reading her fiction is like skating across a cool, elegant surface, and suddenly being plunged into icy, mysterious depths. Her prose style may be cunningly simple, but her meaning is sometimes very enigmatic. --Eithne Farry

Review:

‘Penelope Fitzgerald writes discreet, brief, perfect tales… Jane Austen’s nearest heir.’
A.S. BYATT

‘There are twenty perfectly competent novelists at work in Britain today, but only a handful producing what one could plausibly call works of literature. Of this handful, Penelope Fitzgerald possesses what one can call the purest imagination.’
Evening Standard

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Penelope Fitzgerald
Published by Flamingo (2000)
ISBN 10: 0007100302 ISBN 13: 9780007100309
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
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Irish Booksellers
(Rumford, ME, U.S.A.)
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Book Description Flamingo, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 7100302

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