Going into a Dark House

Going Into a Dark House. Jane Gardam. London : Sinclair-Stevenson, 1994.  182 pp.

It is a set of short stories, which could be subtitled Tales of Spiritual Starvation. A duchess sweeps cheeses and fruit into her handbag at a charity event; market gardeners wading through produce can barely set a table for their children or themselves; other children grow into desiccated high-flyers.

While pettiness and prejudice can be life-altering, there is little sadism. Usually the suffering comes from people who are simply stripped clean of imagination or emotional generosity, apart from the odd quirk. (And when I say people it is usually, like so much good writing, woman-to-woman stuff.)

Affectionateness covers the chill incapacity to love.

There are quite a few ghosts, real or otherwise. The stories move back and forth across the border of the supernatural. But I believe the author always uses them to sketch character and real-world circumstance, like an actor using space off-stage, or a photographer ready to perch in any awkward or risky spot to catch the image. Nuns also come into it more than once.

The last three pieces are connected under the title “Telegony”, a study of the complex interweave of mother and daughter, and its lingering effects.

The cover is taken from the painting The Harvest is the End of the World and the Reapers are Angels by Roger Wagner. It is the only depiction of Judgement Day that I have ever found frightening. 

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