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Perfect Lives
     

Perfect Lives

5.0 1
by Polly Samson
 

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In an English seaside town, lovers and children, young men and middle-aged women weave in and out of each other's lives and stories.

A mother is tormented by her daughter's tattoo; another only pretends to love her baby. A wife stalks her husband and his new lover; a broken egg through a letterbox tells a story that will not go away; the cat thinks he knows best.

Overview

In an English seaside town, lovers and children, young men and middle-aged women weave in and out of each other's lives and stories.

A mother is tormented by her daughter's tattoo; another only pretends to love her baby. A wife stalks her husband and his new lover; a broken egg through a letterbox tells a story that will not go away; the cat thinks he knows best. Threaded throughout are longings for love and poignant disappointments, surprising pleasures and temptations. Some will fall but some, like the small boy at the circus who sees his babysitter fly past on a trapeze wearing little more than a blue bra and spangles, will retain their feeling of awe.

PERFECT LIVES, follows Polly Samson's rapturously received first collection, LYING IN BED. They are rueful, knowing, witty, poignant, bashful, bold. Her genius is in the nuance.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The perfect lives of Samson's characters living in an English seaside town tarnish under closer scrutiny. In her finely-wrought collection of 11 closely-linked stories, Samson (Lying in Bed) plumbs the depths of the human psyche, revealing insecurities, infidelities, and an enduring tenacious spirit. A thoughtless comment at a 40th birthday party and a broken egg in the letterbox on Father's Day shatter a seemingly idyllic marriage. Seeing a girl he likes with a classmate prior to his major recital so demoralized a gifted young pianist that he has turned his significant talents to piano tuning. When years later, the lives of these people briefly intersect, one wonders who has earned the richest life. Samson also examines a little boy's first bittersweet whispers of love for the baby sitter he believes to be a trapeze artist, and a woman's all-consuming love affair with her camera; it causes her to forget her husband's birthday, but also saves the day. Samson's deft touch balances pathos, love, and humor, providing an absorbing look into very real contemporary lives. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
** 'An unexpected combination of romp and classical: thought-provoking, sassy and comforting—Ali Smith ** 'With her effortless prose and unflinching eye, Samson dips beneath the surface of apparently contented, even blessed lives and the result is compelling, disturbing and movingâ??

This is a masterly book and it's impossible not to start all over again the minute you finish reading it. More than simply a series of exquisitely crafted miniatures, it encompasses many of the larger delights of a full-length novel. Polly Samson loves these people, describing them with incisive wit and generous compassion.—Sue Gainsford, FT

Samson's interlinked stories reveal turbulent emotional truths ... Samson's tone is pitch perfect, as bracing and invigorating as her seaside setting.—Marie Claire

Maggie O'Farrell ** 'These intertwined, silken stories deftly expose the heart-sickness behind so many of the burnished surfaces of contemporary life—John Banville

Kirkus Reviews
2016-01-10
A cycle of intersecting stories describes the lives that make up an English seaside community—their joys, regrets, and various embarrassments. Samson is gifted in her understanding of and patience for the variety of human experience. In these stories, a piano tuner regrets his untapped talent as a musician; a mother worries that she doesn't love her baby as she should; a young girl tries to get to know her long-lost father and finds herself saddened and exasperated by him at the same time that she's eager for his attention. These characters are all loosely connected to each other. The young mother has a sister who later becomes the piano tuner's lover. The piano tuner's former teacher is the mother of the fatherless girl. This strategy allows Samson to draw for her readers the outline of an entire community. We see how each character affects the others, for good and for bad. Though these characters are stationed in a small seaside town, they aren't trapped there, and the scope of the book widens to encompass mainland Europe. A concert pianist considers her Jewish grandmother's flight from Hamburg as she herself leaves the city after a performance. Another story describes the struggle by inhabitants of Soviet-occupied Poland to build a church. Samson's prose, whatever her topic, is elegant and warm. She has a lyrical touch and a fine eye for detail. Unfortunately, she also has a penchant for preciousness which, when indulged, can be cloying. In her final story, a woman converses with her beloved cat, and the cat, in complete sentences and formal syntax, converses back. Other stories, too, border on cute in their overly tidy resolutions. Samson's benevolence, though, and the good-heartedness of her observations, makes up for those too-sweet moments.Samson's new stories are warm and engaging, but some falter on their own affected charm.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781860499920
Publisher:
Virago UK
Publication date:
02/21/2011
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Polly Samson was born in London. Her previous collection, LYING IN BED, was followed by a novel, OUT OF THE PICTURE. She also writes lyrics.

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Perfect Lives 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
FableMinded More than 1 year ago
Well written stories with interesting themes and structures. I enjoyed reading all of the stories and know I'll read them again. After analyzing The Egg and Leaving Hamburg, I consider both among my favorite short stories. I'm looking forward to reading Lying in Bed and Out of the Picture which I ordered before I'd read half of the stories in this collection.