Midsummer Night in the Workhouse
Written by Diana Athill
Publication Date September 01, 2011
"I can remember in detail being hit by my first story one January morning in 1958." So begins literary legend Diana Athill in the preface to Midsummer Night in the Workhouse, a long-overdue collection of her short fiction, stories which were originally published in the 1950s to the 1970s.
In unsentimental though often touching prose, Athill’s young women anticipate, enjoy, or just miss out on brief sexual encounters with men met on trains, at parties -- just about anywhere they can. A cheating wife, back with her boring husband, is wracked with agonizing love for the unavailable partner of her brief fling; a writer seeks inspiration at a writers’ retreat whilst avoiding the group seducer’s invitation; a wife’s party flirtations propel her possessive husband into another woman’s bed; two fun-loving women face a sinister sexual assault during a Greek holiday; a teenager experiences enraptured detachment during her first kiss.
Beautifully written, perceptive, touching, and funny, Midsummer Night in the Workhouse is Diana Athill at her best.
Diana Athill was born in 1917. She helped Andre Deutsch establish the publishing company that bore his name and worked as an editor for Deutsch for four decades. Athill’s distinguished career as an editor is the subject of her acclaimed memoir Stet, which is also published by Granta Books, as are five volumes of memoirs, Instead of a Letter, After a Funeral, Yesterday Morning, Make Believe, Somewhere Towards the End, and a novel, Don’t Look at Me Like That. In January 2009, she won the Costa Biography Award for Somewhere Towards the End, and was presented with an OBE. She lives in London.
"These stories are small gems ... [Athill's] legion of admirers will be pleased." Maclean's
"[Diana Athill's] collected fiction writing from the 1950s through the 1970s is a handsome garland on a long career..." Vogue
"I loved loved loved these short stories. They're like many-faceted gems, understated, deceptively simple and even off-hand, yet so filled with insights and real beauty."
"... a very smooth read ... Athill is clearly a writer of intelligence." Rover Arts