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Women in Their Beds: Collected Stories

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-In these 35 stories, one struggles to find a sentence that is anything less than jewel-box perfect.- --The New York Times Book Review Gina Berriault is known for the complexity and compassion with which she weaves her characters, and her stories are such models of economy that they seem almost telepathic. In this reissue of her collected stories--twenty years after its fir -In these 35 stories, one struggles to find a sentence that is anything less than jewel-box perfect.- --The New York Times Book Review Gina Berriault is known for the complexity and compassion with which she weaves her characters, and her stories are such models of economy that they seem almost telepathic. In this reissue of her collected stories--twenty years after its first publication--with a new introduction by renowned author and devoted Berriault advocate Peter Orner--we see the deft hand of this well-loved master of the short story at its best. Berriault employs her vital sensibility--sometimes subtly ironic and sometimes achingly raw--to touch on the inevitability of suffering and the nature of individuality, daring to see into the essence of our predicaments. What moves us? What dictates our behavior? What alters us? Her writing is spare, evanescent, pulsing with life and shimmering with life's strange hope. Her stories illustrate the depth of her emotional understanding. -Half the women in the world are right now in bed, theirs or somebody else's, whether it's night or day, whether they want to be or not...- With Women in Their Beds, Berriault's prose--moving, honest, and wise--achieves a mastery of the short story form that was in evidence every step of her long career. She was a completely modern writer, blessed with an exquisite sense of the potency of words and the ability to create moments of empathy that are both disturbing and mysteriously amusing.


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-In these 35 stories, one struggles to find a sentence that is anything less than jewel-box perfect.- --The New York Times Book Review Gina Berriault is known for the complexity and compassion with which she weaves her characters, and her stories are such models of economy that they seem almost telepathic. In this reissue of her collected stories--twenty years after its fir -In these 35 stories, one struggles to find a sentence that is anything less than jewel-box perfect.- --The New York Times Book Review Gina Berriault is known for the complexity and compassion with which she weaves her characters, and her stories are such models of economy that they seem almost telepathic. In this reissue of her collected stories--twenty years after its first publication--with a new introduction by renowned author and devoted Berriault advocate Peter Orner--we see the deft hand of this well-loved master of the short story at its best. Berriault employs her vital sensibility--sometimes subtly ironic and sometimes achingly raw--to touch on the inevitability of suffering and the nature of individuality, daring to see into the essence of our predicaments. What moves us? What dictates our behavior? What alters us? Her writing is spare, evanescent, pulsing with life and shimmering with life's strange hope. Her stories illustrate the depth of her emotional understanding. -Half the women in the world are right now in bed, theirs or somebody else's, whether it's night or day, whether they want to be or not...- With Women in Their Beds, Berriault's prose--moving, honest, and wise--achieves a mastery of the short story form that was in evidence every step of her long career. She was a completely modern writer, blessed with an exquisite sense of the potency of words and the ability to create moments of empathy that are both disturbing and mysteriously amusing.

30 review for Women in Their Beds: Collected Stories

  1. 4 out of 5

    Marylee MacDonald

    I wish Gina Berriault were still alive so I could thank her for these beautiful stories. The title story is set in a hospital where the women are literally lying in their beds, a situation and a title that perhaps had its origins in that phrase we were all told as young women--"You've made your bed and now you have to lie in it." I don't know much about the author's life, only that she lived in the San Francisco area. I know that she won the National Book Award and that she was a very private per I wish Gina Berriault were still alive so I could thank her for these beautiful stories. The title story is set in a hospital where the women are literally lying in their beds, a situation and a title that perhaps had its origins in that phrase we were all told as young women--"You've made your bed and now you have to lie in it." I don't know much about the author's life, only that she lived in the San Francisco area. I know that she won the National Book Award and that she was a very private person. But, if you are a short story writer, you would do well to grab a copy of this book from Alibris. Study her sentences. Study where her stories begin and end. Each story in this collection is a miracle of compression. If you like Alice Munro, you will enjoy Gina Berriault.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    Every other year or so I come across some great North American woman short story writer with a full body of work for me to immerse myself in. Recently there's been Edith Pearlman, Lucia Berlin and Joy Williams, and now Berriault. She wasn't completely new to me, I had read a story, the little masterpiece The Stone Boy in Points of View ( fabulous anthology) in 2013. Not sure why it took so long to get round to reading a collection because that story was stunning. And so are several others here, Every other year or so I come across some great North American woman short story writer with a full body of work for me to immerse myself in. Recently there's been Edith Pearlman, Lucia Berlin and Joy Williams, and now Berriault. She wasn't completely new to me, I had read a story, the little masterpiece The Stone Boy in Points of View ( fabulous anthology) in 2013. Not sure why it took so long to get round to reading a collection because that story was stunning. And so are several others here, a new and selected stories collection. She is subtle, worldly, nuanced, accurate, beautiful. She plays you like a flute. Together with Violette Leduc, another recent discovery, she will be my go-to author for a year or two at least while I re-read her elegant, sharp, wide ranging, loving and observant pieces. So happy to have found her. I noticed this quoted by another GR review, and it serves well to illustrate her style: "The cat...stepped among the dishes in the manner of a prince slumming along narrow, winding streets."... and .. "Mayda reached for (the cat), lifting it from the table and setting it down on the floor, not attempting to take it into her lap, for it had the inviolable weight of someone else's property."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Disclaimer: I’m not a great reader of short stories. This is in part because, as a writer, I struggle with short fiction more than I do with novellas and novels. That being said, I found this collection when cleaning my bookshelves recently, and I’m glad I finally got a chance to read it. It came highly recommended by a friend of mine with excellent taste and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. It’s nearly impossible for me to review short story collections; there’s either too much to say about Disclaimer: I’m not a great reader of short stories. This is in part because, as a writer, I struggle with short fiction more than I do with novellas and novels. That being said, I found this collection when cleaning my bookshelves recently, and I’m glad I finally got a chance to read it. It came highly recommended by a friend of mine with excellent taste and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. It’s nearly impossible for me to review short story collections; there’s either too much to say about each individual story, or too little to say about the work as a whole. I’m going to keep this short, with a few things I appreciated about Women in Their Beds— * Berriault, like a good short story writer, explores many facets of human nature throughout the stories, from youth to old age, from masculinity to the plights of, as the title suggests, women in their beds * I connected with certain stories on a really deep level, which made up for the fact that the point of other stories seemed to fly right over my head; that being said, I feel that this collection could speak to any kind of reader. * Berriault has a supreme gift for description that made me terrified to ever write again. * there was an obvious effort, here, to write about all different kinds of people, including people of color, those living in poverty, the elderly, immigrants, etc. which made for some surprisingly diverse reading material. Overall: I recommend this in small doses. I think I would’ve enjoyed the collection a lot more if I had read it differently. My reading style is to sit down and binge the book until I can’t hold my eyes open anymore, but that strategy doesn’t really work with short stories. This is the kind of book you keep on your coffee table for a month or so, pick it up here and there, maybe reading one story at a time and then giving yourself time to really reflect on it. Perhaps, had I actually taken the time this book deserves, I’d be able to appreciate it a bit more. All in all, definitely worthy reading, assuming you’re up for taking it slowly.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Paakhi Srivastava

    A composition of short stories bring to life repressed parts within a women.. Most recommended

  5. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    I didn't get into all of these, but my favorites ("Who Is It Can Tell Me Who I Am?," "The Island of Ven," and "The Light at Birth,") had. a way of gracefully, believably tipping from the mundane into the cosmic.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sheila Packa

    Superb collection of short stories from a master of the form. The title story is unforgettable. Excellent character development.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Laura J. W.

    What a lovely collection of stories! Normally, I’ve made it a practice to read short story collections one story at a time as an interlude in between larger works, but this one, I could not read just one...I looked forward to reading the next one just as eagerly as I would the next chapter of a fascinating novel. Each story was a genuine gem; precise and simple; ordinary, yet extraordinary; quietly bittersweet without being too terribly sentimental; tragic and comic, for the dark to exist, there What a lovely collection of stories! Normally, I’ve made it a practice to read short story collections one story at a time as an interlude in between larger works, but this one, I could not read just one...I looked forward to reading the next one just as eagerly as I would the next chapter of a fascinating novel. Each story was a genuine gem; precise and simple; ordinary, yet extraordinary; quietly bittersweet without being too terribly sentimental; tragic and comic, for the dark to exist, there must be light...this is so well done. I’m so happy to have found her. I’ve dog-eared many pages, and could quote many favorites, but I will do only this one, from the very last page: “She was wakened in the night by the strangers at the old mother’s garden party. Visions of light and of luminous strangers in that light, that was what the dying saw. She knew who they were, those strangers. They were the first of all the many strangers in your life, the ones there when you come out of the dark womb into the amazing light of earth, and never to be seen again in just that way until your last hours. She got up and walked about, barefoot, careful to make no sound that would intrude on that gather of strangers in the little room, below.” – page 342, "The Light at Birth", Gina Berriault

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tom Leland

    In selecting Gina Berriault, the 1997 Rea Award Jurors, Cynthia Ozick, Tobias Wolff, and Andre Dubus said: "Gina Berriault is one of America's most accomplished masters of short fiction. Her stories astonish - not only in their range of character and incident, but in their worldliness, their swift and surprising turns, their penetration into palpable love and grief and hope. Her sentences are excitingly, startlingly juxtaposed; and though her language is plain, the complexity of her knowing leads In selecting Gina Berriault, the 1997 Rea Award Jurors, Cynthia Ozick, Tobias Wolff, and Andre Dubus said: "Gina Berriault is one of America's most accomplished masters of short fiction. Her stories astonish - not only in their range of character and incident, but in their worldliness, their swift and surprising turns, their penetration into palpable love and grief and hope. Her sentences are excitingly, startlingly juxtaposed; and though her language is plain, the complexity of her knowing leads one into mysteries deeper than tears. To discover Berriault is to voyage into uncharted amazements." This also won the Pen/Faulkner and National Book Critics Circle Award...but I only found a handful of them to be very readable. There are flashes of absolute wonder and brilliance throughout these stories...but many of them are just too poetic for the good of the story; I found a few unreadable. Love this, while it's fresh in my mind: "The cat...stepped among the dishes in the manner of a prince slumming along narrow, winding streets." and, "Mayda reached for (the cat), lifting it from the table and setting it down on the floor, not attempting to take it into her lap, for it had the inviolable weight of someone else's property."

  9. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    1) Women in Their Beds 2) Who Is It Can Tell Me Who I Am? 3) A Dream of Fair Women 4) Soul and Money 5) The Island of Ven 6) Lives of the Saints 7) Stolen Pleasures 8) The Overcoat 9) Zenobia 10) The Woman in the Rose-Colored Dress 11) Nights in the Gardens of Spain 12) Bastille Day 13) God and the Article Writer 14) Wilderness Fire 15) The Bystander 16) Death of a Lesser Man 17) The Search for J. Kruper 18) The Birthday Party 19) The Cove 20) Sublime Child 21) Around the Dear Ruin 22) The Diary of K.W. 24) The Stone 1) Women in Their Beds 2) Who Is It Can Tell Me Who I Am? 3) A Dream of Fair Women 4) Soul and Money 5) The Island of Ven 6) Lives of the Saints 7) Stolen Pleasures 8) The Overcoat 9) Zenobia 10) The Woman in the Rose-Colored Dress 11) Nights in the Gardens of Spain 12) Bastille Day 13) God and the Article Writer 14) Wilderness Fire 15) The Bystander 16) Death of a Lesser Man 17) The Search for J. Kruper 18) The Birthday Party 19) The Cove 20) Sublime Child 21) Around the Dear Ruin 22) The Diary of K.W. 24) The Stone Boy 25) Anna Lisa's Nose 26) Works of the Imagination 27) The Mistress 28) Lonesome Road 29) Myra 30) The Houses of the City 31) Nocturne 32) Like a Motherless Child 33) The Science of Life 34) Felis Catus 35) The Light at Birth

  10. 4 out of 5

    WILLIAM2

    These are extraorinarily well written stories. So far I've read "Women in their Beds," which is hilarious and moving; "Who Can Tell Me Who I Am?" about a librarian and his slow blossoming compassion; "A Dream of Fair Women," in which the staff of an Indian restaurant buckle under the strain of serving a famous critic.

  11. 4 out of 5

    BooksRgood

    I've read many but not all of the many stories in this collection. wow I sure have LOVED them. Looking forward to reading more. thanks to George Saunders for his many great books - but also for recommending THIS great book!

  12. 5 out of 5

    LD

    I couldn't finish this book. The writing style would be wonderful, if the stories weren't so banal. It comes of simple, yet pretentious.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Matt Miles

    Thank you Goodreads and George Saunders’ reading list for making me aware of the remarkable but hidden Gina Berriault. Every story is a self-contained masterpiece in its own right, including my least favorite which fleshes out a poorly served character from Ethan Frome while simultaneously taking Wharton to task for her treatment of aforementioned character. To be honest, the only reason it’s my least favorite is because I have no familiarity with the source other than the general plot. The rema Thank you Goodreads and George Saunders’ reading list for making me aware of the remarkable but hidden Gina Berriault. Every story is a self-contained masterpiece in its own right, including my least favorite which fleshes out a poorly served character from Ethan Frome while simultaneously taking Wharton to task for her treatment of aforementioned character. To be honest, the only reason it’s my least favorite is because I have no familiarity with the source other than the general plot. The remaining stories however, take even what would seem to be dull plots (an author seeking out a more famous author for example) and flesh out the characters while taking language and story in unexpected directions. Hopefully, more readers will become aware of Gina Berriault and her works will be celebrated as classics.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Hobbs

    Read so far: Women in their beds --1 *Who is it can tell me who I am? -- A dream of fair women -- Soul and money -- The island of Ven -- Lives of the saints -- Stolen pleasures -- The overcoat -- Zenobia -- The woman in the rose-colored dress -- The infinite passion of expectation -- Nights in the gardens of Spain -- Bastille Day -- God and the article writer -- Wilderness fire -- The bystander -- Death of a lesser man -- The search for J. Kruper -- The birthday party -- The cove -- Sublime child -- Around the dear r Read so far: Women in their beds --1 *Who is it can tell me who I am? -- A dream of fair women -- Soul and money -- The island of Ven -- Lives of the saints -- Stolen pleasures -- The overcoat -- Zenobia -- The woman in the rose-colored dress -- The infinite passion of expectation -- Nights in the gardens of Spain -- Bastille Day -- God and the article writer -- Wilderness fire -- The bystander -- Death of a lesser man -- The search for J. Kruper -- The birthday party -- The cove -- Sublime child -- Around the dear ruin -- The diary of K.W. -- The stone boy --4 Anna Lisa's nose -- Works of the imagination -- The mistress -- Lonesome road -- Myra -- The houses of the city -- Nocturne -- Like a motherless child -- The science of life -- Felis catus -- The light at birth--

  15. 4 out of 5

    Danelle

    The moon rose, a full moon so unexpected, so filled with its own intentions, it was the most alarming thing he’d ever seen. (p. 73) There are thirty-five short stories in this book, and each has a way of becoming a full story for the few pages it takes up. There were a couple that I really wasn’t that into, but there were so many more that I wanted to continue, or know the backstory to. The writing is amazing and if you like short stories with serious substance, you should pick this up.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    I usually turn my nose up at short stories because I need more from literature but I’m so glad I tackled this. I’m really impressed with how she is able to write on so many unique subjects and characters. Another reason why I don’t read a lot of short stories is because I find them forgettable and I fear most of these will go that route as well. But that’s just me.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth OH

    Some of her characters are more absorbing than others, but all of her stories have a melancholy edge. They may be discomfiting because they don't round out nicely at the end but make you feel the feels for the sake of feels.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sai

    Not for me I’m afraid. There is obvious skill in tightly weaving details into a few pages, but there seemed little purpose in many of the stories. So it started feeling like I was in a workshop, being asked to read someone’s show of skill, rather than to engage in stories.

  19. 4 out of 5

    M Sorensen

    We read this National Book Critics Circle Award Winner in our local book group. I found a lot to think about in "Who is it can tell me who I am?"

  20. 4 out of 5

    Aveugle Vogel

    "squat, raucous"

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Mcbroom

    Bizarre short story collection of yes about women in bed.

  22. 4 out of 5

    RD Chiriboga Moncayo

    Precise, concise, unsentimental but subtle and powerful short stories.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Giragosian

    Berriault is a master of understatement and elision. The gaps, silences, and withheld images speak on their own terms. A remarkable collection.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tanya

    This is an unsettling collection. It took me a few tries over a few years to read this book. Most times I couldn't connect with the stories, but the fault of that was mine. Sometimes you need to slide into writing when mood and tone is right. Still, there were a few in here that I had to slog through. They just did not resonate with me. Again, I think I just couldn't pick up what they were putting down. When the stories did affect me they felled me by cutting achilles tendon. I still can't get u This is an unsettling collection. It took me a few tries over a few years to read this book. Most times I couldn't connect with the stories, but the fault of that was mine. Sometimes you need to slide into writing when mood and tone is right. Still, there were a few in here that I had to slog through. They just did not resonate with me. Again, I think I just couldn't pick up what they were putting down. When the stories did affect me they felled me by cutting achilles tendon. I still can't get up after reading Zenobia, Around the Dear Ruin, and The Diary of K.W. I am going to keep this book around. Thumb through it when I need to feel that particular bleakness Berriault is so good at isolating.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Brett

    That was one odd little collection of short stories. I read this book primarily because Ms. Berriault was an intimate of Richard Yates. Apparently they had an ongoing friendship and correspondence for a time. These stories, though they are fairly common settings - and comprised of fairly common activities - have a very discomforting observance to them...like something there is no way I would have experienced in similar circumstances. The emotional responses seem completely genuine but at the sam That was one odd little collection of short stories. I read this book primarily because Ms. Berriault was an intimate of Richard Yates. Apparently they had an ongoing friendship and correspondence for a time. These stories, though they are fairly common settings - and comprised of fairly common activities - have a very discomforting observance to them...like something there is no way I would have experienced in similar circumstances. The emotional responses seem completely genuine but at the same time completely foreign in a way that I can only think like you're watching say a Bulgarian soap opera that's been dubbed into English. I don't know...different that's for sure.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    I came across this collection of short stories through Poets and Writers Magazine. It sounded like something up my alley and I ordered a copy. Turns out, my instincts regarding literary fiction are pretty well spot on: This is a great collection of smart, well paced, short stories with soul. Berriault writes like Hemingway would have had he been a woman (or appreciated women for their brains as well as their bodies). You can feel Ernest's presence in many of these stories,not repeated as cheap m I came across this collection of short stories through Poets and Writers Magazine. It sounded like something up my alley and I ordered a copy. Turns out, my instincts regarding literary fiction are pretty well spot on: This is a great collection of smart, well paced, short stories with soul. Berriault writes like Hemingway would have had he been a woman (or appreciated women for their brains as well as their bodies). You can feel Ernest's presence in many of these stories,not repeated as cheap mimicry but as if Berriault had absorbed Hemingway's best and endowed it with a feminine touch. Masterful. As always, you can read a longer review of this book at www.cloquetriverpress.com. Mark

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jim Coughenour

    This book is a collection of Gina Berriault's short stories, including the best stories from an earlier collection, The Infinite Passion of Expectation. Her stories have a subtle, carefully-observed, almost heartless, literally breathtaking beauty. No one does what she does better. I worship her. A handful of favorites: "The Birthday Party;" "The Cove;" "The Stone Boy;" "The Mistress;" "The Light at Birth."

  28. 4 out of 5

    Laura Yan

    Apparently Gina Berriault is a writer's writer. Apparently that translates to over-the-top tragic and literary and descriptive prose, and impossible to read. I read two stories and I couldn't bring myself to finish more. I thought I'd really love this--but "craft' for the sake of craft is well, boring. Which is to say: there's probably a reason this book won so many awards and yet no one knows who Gina Berriault is.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    i would give this negative stars it i could. my senior course in college was a class all about this author. argh. i actually sold this book back for only 50 cents because there was no way i was keeping it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Janice

    It was a very good book. I've bought everything I can find my Gina Berriault, whom I had not read before. A wonderful storyteller--the traditional kind of storyteller, a craftsman. A writer to learn from, as well as to enjoy.

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