One day, Alice said, ‘Eric Lane wants to take me to—’
For the first time, her mother attended, standing still.
Eric was brought to the house, and Eric and Alice were married before there was time to say ‘knife’. How did it happen? She tried to trace it back. She was watching her mother performing for Eric, and then (she always paused here in her mind), somehow, she woke up married and in another house.
Internationally acclaimed for her five brilliant novels, Elizabeth Harrower is also the author of a small body of short fiction. A Few Days in the Country brings together for the first time her stories published in Australian journals in the 1960s and 1970s, along with those from her archives.
Essential reading for Harrower fans, these finely turned pieces show a broader range than the novels, ranging from caustic satires to gentler explorations of friendship.
Elizabeth Harrower is the author of the novels Down in the City, The Long Prospect, The Catherine Wheel, The Watch Tower and In Certain Circles, which was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction in 2015. Her story collection A Few Days in the Country was shortlisted for the 2016 Stella Prize.
Elizabeth Harrower’s short fiction, gathered for the first time in A Few Days in the Country, is as vibrant today as when it was first published some decades ago. She convincingly depicts a dark and often unacknowledged side of human behaviour: from a glamorous couple who might be termed psychopathic in contemporary times, to petty acts of vindictiveness perpetuated by characters with domestic authority, each story is a glimpse into the way power can work in individual lives. There are also tender tales about the anxieties of friendship and burgeoning adulthood.
This is a superlative collection, written with great clarity and precision and an understanding of the subterranean intensities of human interactions. It gathers together a constellation of stories from a variety of sources, and exhibits the unerring skill of one of Australia’s most significant writers.
‘This is the work of an activist in disguise as an entertainer. “How easily she had divested herself of the girl with interests and pleasant ways,” Harrower writes of one character, dispatching decades of her life. And in a later story comes this dagger: “She was shorter, pruned, slightly murdered.”
Time tried to do this to Elizabeth Harrower the writer. It failed, she survived, and these 12 tales are yet another reason why we ought to celebrate this near miss.’ John Freeman, The Australian
‘Despite her unremitting focus on the pain of existence, Harrower affirms, through the act of writing, that there is hope and that she has faith in the human spirit. The collection opens with the arresting image of lightning and a blackout: “And then … the lights … went out.” Its closing sentence reads: “She had learned.” In various ways, these stories chart a path through darkness to arrive, often, at moments of empowering self-awareness.’ Bernadette Brennan, Australian Book Review