I came across this tiny little book in an antiques store in West Kirby and the second I laid eyes on it I knew that I had to have it (and the owner gave it to me for free because sometimes the world is wonderful like that). I’d been curious about Patricia Highsmith’s work for some time, the title is hilarious, and the serenely smiling 1950’s housewife on the cover made it even better.
There are seventeen short stories in this book, most of them very brief, and they cover a range of female archetypes we know so well, like the whore, the mother-in-law, the prude, and the housewife. Highsmith writes in a very stark style and has a dark sense of humour (every single story ends with either a death or some other kind of horrible tragedy), and… I didn’t care for it. I understand what Highsmith was trying to do and I appreciate the sentiment, but I found this collection to be too on-the-nose in its criticism on gender roles and not nearly as clever as it could have been. I chuckled once or twice, but overall the stories weren’t as sharp or as funny as I wanted them to be. Most of the jokes fell flat, which is a big problem in a work of satire that has little else to offer (like poetry or characterisation).
Perhaps Highsmith’s other books will be more to my liking, but this volume of short stories is perfectly skippable.