Jane Gardam at Edinburgh International Book Festival 2015

Jane Gardam at Edinburgh International Book Festival 2015

Baillie Gifford Main Theatre

17 Aug 2015 5:00pm

The Female Gaze: Great Parts for Older Women

On stage and on television the older woman may struggle for good parts, but not so in novels. Jane Gardam and Penelope Lively, two of Britain’s best-loved and most highly acclaimed authors, both children's writers and prize-winning novelists, talk about some of their favourite elderly heroines from their own novels. These include Lively's Moon Tiger and Gardam's Old Filth trilogy. With readings by the award-winning film and stage actress Eileen Atkins.

Abacus

The Stories

By Jane Gardam

Throughout her career, prize-winning novelist Jane Gardam has been writing glorious short stories, each one hallmarked with all the originality, poignancy, wry comedy and narrative brilliance of her longer fiction.

Passion and longing, metamorphosis and enchantment are Gardam's themes, and like a magician she plucks them from the quietest of corners: from Wimbledon gardens and cold churches, from London buses and industrial backstreets. A mother watching her children on the beach dreams of a long-lost lover, an abandoned army wife sees a ghost at a moorland gate, a translator adrift in Geneva is haunted by the unspeakable manifestation of her own fears, and a colonial servant wreaks a delicious revenge on her monstrous masters. Gardam's cast is wide and wonderful, saints and mystics, trollops and curmudgeons, yearning mothers and lost children, beloved figures such as Old Filth and less familiar - but equally unforgettable - characters like Signor Settimo, the sad-eyed provincial photographer marooned in Shipley or Florrie Ironside, the ferocious matron he seduces.

With a mischievous ear for dialogue, a glittering eye for detail and a capacious understanding of the vagaries of the human heart, Jane Gardam's stories will captivate, sadden and delight.

I adored Jane Gardam's The Stories. She does fiction as it should be done, with confidence and insight.She has the Austeneaque quality of being satisfying and disquieting, conventional and experimental . . . conversational, lucid, realist yet fantastical, she can be outrageously funny, gradually revealing her characters by what is not said, and not seen . . . one of our greatest living writersIt is good, too, to be reminded that Gardam is as brilliant a short story writer as she is a novelist . . . Gardam, like Penelope Fitzgerald, knows the supreme art of what and exactly how much to leave out . . . this is a deeply, impeccably humane and pleasurable bookBeautifully formed short stories . . . Gardam writes with wit, harnessing an expert use of dialogue to bring her characters to life . . . written by arguably one of our greatest living writers, the moments depicted in The Stories will certainly resonate long after the last page has been turnedGardam's narratives are sharp and disconcerting . . . intimate and confiding . . . a compelling mixture of the strange and the familiar - well-told tales in which love, death and sorrow are properly valued. These moving and diverting meditations on the past offer a simple lesson: they don't make them like that any more. This collection is very welcome.Pure delightEach one of these narratives - none of them afraid of looking into the great terrifying secrets of love and grief, death, ageing and faith in a mere handful of pages - make the heart race. Sly, sharp and mischievous . . . It is Gardam's gift for the ecstatic, for showing us what a place of wonders is the world and the hearts that dwell in it, that endows this collection with a dangerous and formidable energy. She gives us miracle heaped upon miracleThere is little Gardam doesn't know about being in love, or any of the other vicissitudes of ordinary life . . . her funniness does not cease to sparkle, but she moves as surely as she entertainsIt is Jane Gardam's particular gift to be able to shine a light through these unexpected peepholes, straight into the human heart . . . marvellousGardam's dialogue is a constant delight . . . Every character, however silent or minor, is accorded proper attention . . . Gardam's huge and firmly controlled imagination makes everything possible, everything credible . . . Of all the glories, here, 'Telegony' is the most compelling and it demonstrates Gardam's range of genius, with powerful characters, wit, doom, detailed settings and astonishing outcomesFull of wit, unexpected turns of events and splendid writingSharp, funny, mischeivous and often menacing, [the stories] grab you by the throat. Gardam's fiction is always much more than it at first seems. Behind a superficial ordinariness is something extraordinary. Rather like the fiction of another celebrated JaneIlluminating, unshowy and often funny, [the stories] bear comparison with those by Chekhov, Trevor and Munro and offer limitless, suitcase-friendly rereadingOne of the finest living writers in the English languageA treasure trove of short stories from the beloved author of the Old Filth trilogy.Jane Gardam has been awarded the Heywood Hill Literary Prize for a lifetime's contribution to the enjoyment of literature; has twice won a Whitbread Award and has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She was awarded an OBE in January 2009.Jane Gardam's classic novel Old Filth has sold over 75,000 TCM and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize.The Queen of the Tambourine won the Whitbread Prize.