Relative Successes

A. L. Barker
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ISBN 9780571256174 Format Paperback
Published 10/12/2009 Length 198 pages

About Book

An awkward and solitary boy at school, James Jessel is surprised to find himself befriended by the impetuous, self-assured Waldo Klein, and bemused by Waldo's invitation to spend the holidays with him and his mother (a 'ravishing beauty', warns Waldo) in the south of France.

On the Klein's ramshackle farm in the hills of Provence, Jessel experiences the single most important event - or sensation - of his life. The voluptuous and sensual Mrs Klein is a creature whose sexuality and presence leaves Jessel dumbfounded. He is entranced, and senses a magic he has never known before.

When, many years later, Waldo disappears leaving no clue to his whereabouts, Jessel's ordered world is overturned once more. If he is ever to know magic again, he must find Waldo, and so he returns to France to confront his past - and, indeed, his future.

  • About A. L. Barker

    A. L. Barker (1918-2002) was a short story writer and novelist. Born in St Paul's Cray, Kent, she lived in the same milieu where London borders on Kent and Surrey, for the rest of her life. As her Oxford DNB entry says it was 'the chief setting for her work, which often seemed to partake of the quotidian mysteriousness and even abandonment of these areas.'

    Her first selection of short stories, Innocents, won the Somerset Maugham award in 1947. Of her short stories, Robert Nye has written, 'stories as carefully composed as poems, quiet and delicate and reserved perhaps, but oddly lingering in the mind.'

    Although a stranger to commercial success, she never wanted for admirers, Jane Gardam, Francis King, Auberon Waugh, Evelyn Waugh, Rebecca West, John Sutherland, Deborah Moggach, Ronald Blythe, Susan Hill, A. S. Byatt, Adam Mars-Jones, Nina Bawden and Victoria Glendinning being just some of them.

    A. L. Barker deserves to be better known. Faber Finds is proud to be reissuing her entire oeuvre, six volumes of short stories - Innocents, Novelette with Other Stories, Femina Real, Life Stories, No Words of Love and Element of Doubt - and thirteen novels - Apology for a Hero, A Case Examined, The Joy-Ride and After, Lost Upon the Roundabouts, The Middling, John Brown's Body, Source of Embarrassment, A Heavy Feather, Relative Successes, The Gooseboy, The Woman Who Talked to Herself, Zeph and The Haunt.

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