TODAY A WOMAN WENT MAD IN THE SUPERMARKET by Hilma Wolitzer (Bloomsbury £14.99, 208 pp)

TODAY: A SUPERMARKET WOMAN IS OUT FOR HER MONEY by Hilma Wolitzer (Bloomsbury £14.99, 208 pp)


by Hilma Wolitzer

(Bloomsbury £14.99, 208 pp)

You will find equal parts of despair and humor in these fantastic stories.

The 13 stories in this collection were mostly written between 1960 and 1970. The final, The Great Escape arrived in 2020 during the height of coronavirus. The themes are familiar — motherhood and marriage and the toll they exact — but Wolitzer’s take is fresh and funny and finely tuned to the carefree moments that lighten the emotional load.

The best stories are the ones that chart the marriage of Paulie (Paulette) and Howard, a complicated, relatable relationship, described with mordant wit by the delectable Paulie, whose sunny disposition and rampaging insomnia act as a foil to handsome, sexually irresistible Howard (who over the years becomes ‘grizzled and paunchy and grey’).

She struggles with his infidelities. Hypochondria. Intermittent depression. But she loves him.

It’s so beautifully done, sly and spry, the perfect mixture of funny and sad, which tips over into grief in the last tale as the virus hits, and Paulie, ever the truth-teller, says: ‘It seemed as if it would all go on for ever in that exquisitely boring and beautiful way. But of course it wouldn’t; everyone knows that.’

THINGS WE DO NOT TELLTHE PEOPLE WE LOVE by Huma Qureshi (Sceptre £16.99, 192 pp )

We don’t tell people things we love. Huma Qureshi (Sceptre £16.99, 192 pp )


by Huma Qureshi

(Sceptre £16.99, 192 pp)

THERE’S a sense of constriction and claustrophobia in Huma Qureshi’s stories, of words left unsaid, secretive thoughts unexpressed, situations where women (for the most part) are uncomfortably caught between their Pakistani heritage, family expectations and their own needs.

The prose is clear and clean and works best in the stories where the emotions Huma describes are equally stripped back; the tired, quiet despair of a new mother dealing with an insensitive partner, her own writerly life on hold as she cares for the baby (Waterlogged), or the almost sweet sadness of recalling a tempestuous friend who’s no longer around (Firecracker).

Occasionally, the weight of all that feeling and frustration drives the stories towards melodrama; as in the award–winning The Jam Maker, where matricide seems to be on the cards in the bucolic setting of an English village. Premonition is the story that opens the book. It delicately outlines the illicit pleasures of teenage love and the devastating consequences of the stolen kiss on the protagonist’s reputation and life.