Warner: Selected Stories - Sylvia Townsend Warner As with any short-story collection, my reactions to individual tales differed though none here merited less than 3 stars - I liked them all.

This volume is a compilation of Warner's best (as determined by her literary executors) and covers her 40+ years as an active writer.

Some of the more arresting included:

"A Love Match" - This is the first story in the collection (from 1961's Warner S a Stranger with a Bag) and it begins things with a "bang." It's the story of the incestuous love of a brother and sister.

"Idenborough" - I liked this one because it shows that even two people in love can't be totally honest with each other.

"Apprentice" - This is a disturbing story from 1943's A garland of straw;: Twenty-eight stories) about a young German girl in occupied Poland (her family is one of the colonists shipped in by the Nazis). It's an illustration of how easy it is to dehumanize the other.

From the same collection there's "A Red Carnation," which seemed particularly topical considering the US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. It's the story about a German soldier shipped off to aid the Francoists in Spain's Civil War and his disillusionment when he arrives to find the natives aren't the appreciative well wishers he expected.

"But at the Stroke of Midnight," from The Innocent and the Guilty. This is a good example of Warner's theme in many of her stories and novels - breaking free from convention. One day Lucy Ridpath becomes her cousin Aurelia and escapes the stifling domesticity of her home.

"Happiness" - I think this story is about the ephemerality of the emotion; at least that's what I got from it. In general, I found that, in this collection at any rate, Warner's tone is darker, less optimistic than in the novels I've read, and this tale is a good example of that view.

"Total Loss" was a wrencher for me. It's about a girl and her parent's well meaning - though fruitless - attempt to shield her from reality. In this case, the need to put her cat to sleep.

"One Thing Leading to Another," from a collection by the same name, is Warner in a playful mood. Like "But at the Stroke of Midnight," it's about someone breaking free from convention but the motivations and consequences are not so marked by despair.

The last seven stories in the collection are taken from Warner's foray into fantasy, Kingdoms of Elfin, which I reviewed previously here. The only comment I'll make in this review is that, even moreso than Tad Williams, Warner captures the alienness of fairies better than any author I've read.

I'm a hopeless devotee of Sylvia Townsend Warner so I can't help but recommend this book (if you can find it).