Book Review: Happy Families Are All Alike by Peter Taylor

peter taylor 001 m“Undisputed master of the short story form.” says Anne Tyler.

“He comes as close as an American writer can to rivaling Chekhov.”
says The New York Times.

Happy Families Are All Alike, the title, is of course mocking
Tolstoy’s opening to Anna Karenina.  And it’s true because Peter
Taylor makes it true, that unhappy families are unhappy in
different ways.

This great book that I bought in London has ten, only ten, wonderful
stories—crisp and clean, can’t put them down.  I limited myself to
one a night, and even then didn’t want to finish.

“Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time” received first prize in the 1959
O. Henry Memorial Awards.   This is the story of an elderly brother
and sister living in a small town who throw a party once a year for
the town’s wealthier young people.  It’s a tradition that’s been in
effect as long as the townsfolk can remember.  The children don’t
necessarily want to go, but no one refuses.

These stories are about simple families, but simple families with
tensions and problems that others in town might not guess at.
Often the stories are about adolescents and fitting in, or not
daring to cross class lines.

They take place in the midwest and the south, Tennessee.  But they
could have easily taken place in your own home town, and maybe
they did but nobody wrote them down.

Years ago I read A Summons to Memphis and The Widows of Thornton
by Peter Taylor, but I don’t remember anything about them.  When I
started this book I fell in love again with the short story form.  One
thing led to another with my putting Raymond Carver’s “Where I’m
Calling From” (stories) on my summer reading list, and after reading
the forward in that I borrowed a big fat book of short stories about
love from the library.  I wish you’d select a Peter Taylor story from
some collection or other and let me know if he keeps you up at night,


You already know me---I'm in your book club. I've been in your book club in Wisconsin, in New York, in Missouri, in Connecticut. Now I'm in your book club in Pennsylvania. I love books! (I also collect buttons!) I'm looking forward to having conversations about books with people just like you----who also love books and want to talk about them. Send me an email: booksandbooks (at) me about a book you are reading. (or buttons of interest)
This entry was posted in books and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s