Walter de la Mare

Hesperus 2007 [1942]
A book review by Danny Yee © 2017 https://dannyreviews.com/
The three stories in this collection were published in 1923, 1926 and 1929 and are gems of modernist style. All involve a first person protagonist who is told a story: by a stranger in a restaurant in "Missing", by an old friend in "The Almond Tree", and by a stranger in a railway station waiting room in "Crewe". In the first the framing story contributes a significant part of the tension and interest; in the second and third it remains largely as background, but still plays an important role.

None of the internal narrators are at all reliable: those in "Missing" and "Crewe" are clearly far from candid, while "The Almond Tree" comes through the filter of early childhood memory. The mystery elements of the stories are psychological as well as of the more direct "what happened" kind: in "Missing" the still unexplained disappearance of the narrator's lodger a year ago, in "The Almond Tree" a child's perspective on his father's infidelity, with a twist, and in "Crewe" a conflict between domestic servants who are possible benefactors of a will. They are unsettling in what remains unresolved but at the same time satisfying, with a psychological settlement involving the framing story.

Three stories is a good number to give a feel for an author without being intimidating: I was unlikely to have tackled, cold, the three volumes of Walter de la Mare's collected stories, but this slim volume may well lead me to those. It would have been good to have had some guidance as to how representative these particular stories are, however. Missing does include a brief introduction by Russell Hoban, but that is a teaser for the stories and doesn't offer much broader background on de la Mare or his oeuvre.

May 2017

External links:
- buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
- share this review on Facebook or Twitter
Related reviews:
- more short fiction
%T Missing
%A de la Mare, Walter
%I Hesperus
%D 2007 [1942]
%O paperback
%G ISBN 1843914298
%P 109pp