Short and Sweet: The Means of Escape, by Penelope Fitzgerald

The May edition of Short & Sweet is coming to you earlier than usual.  If you’ve followed along, you’ll know I’ve worked my way through a pile of short stories, usually as bedtime reading.  This month I read The Means of Escape by Penelope Fitzgerald.  Or rather, I read half of it.  I have no idea why I had this book on my shelves, seeing as I really disliked Fitzgerald’s Booker Prize-winning novel, Offshore.  I should have known better.

The Means of Escape is a mercifully short collection of ten stories.  I read half of them before throwing in the towel.  The title story, where a woman helps an escaped convict in hopes of running off with him, was the best of the bunch.  One story, The Prescription, was so indecipherable to me that my notes just say, “???”.  The last story I read, The Axe, began with promise.  It took the form of a letter written by a manager who had recently made a long-time employee redundant.  Clearly he felt the decision was unjust and had sympathy for the employee.  But it took a sudden turn into very strange territory, and that’s when I knew I was done with this book.

This book was just too full of “quirky” characters and bizarre situations.  These might work better in a long-form novel, but encountering a new set every ten pages or so was just too much for me.


Next month I’ll be reading The View from Castle Rock, by Alice Munro. Watch for the next installment of Short & Sweet!


6 thoughts on “Short and Sweet: The Means of Escape, by Penelope Fitzgerald

  1. I wasn’t a fan of Offshore either. I don’t why as when I hear Fitzgerald’s works described they usually sound exactly my sort of thing but Offshore fell completely flat for me. I think I’ll avoid these short stories too!

    • Dee, I know the feeling — Offshore sounded like something I would enjoy, but it fell completely flat. I’m afraid now, after “strike 2,” I won’t be giving Fitzgerald another chance.

  2. oh dear! Unlike you and Dee Laura I loved Offshore – though Fitzgerald’s writing is often odd – I found Gate of Angels very odd. I haven’t read any of her short stories.

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