In the Driver's Seat
Helen Simpson
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Buy *In the Driver's Seat: Stories* by Helen Simpson online

In the Driver's Seat: Stories
Helen Simpson
192 pages
May 2008
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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In the Driver's Seat collects 11 fast-paced satiric stories by English author Helen Simpson. Most of the tales center on middle-class Britons, the stories told from the front-lines of family life, their characters dealing with parenthood, a midlife crisis, infidelity and aging.

Most of the stories from In the Driver's Seat are not very long, but they are neither lacking in intensity. Humorous as well as harrowing, these stories take on big issues facing women today, whether they are single, married, or married with children.

"Early One Morning" is a story about a woman named Zoe and her relationship with her nine-year-old son. He is her youngest, and last, child. She is painfully aware of how quickly his childhood years are passing, and how as he enters adolescence and becomes more independent he will leave her behind. She relishes her time spent with her son when she drives him to school, when they are alone and she has all of his attention. Her role as a mother is a vital part of her identity as a woman, and she sees her future as uncertain and bleak. She struggles with optimism.

Simpson's prose is authentic and poetic in this story in particular. She writes of Zoe's struggle,

"Let the past go (sang Zoe beneath her breath), time to move on; her own build-in obsolescence could make her feel lively rather than sad. And perhaps the shape of her life would be like an hourglass, clear and wide to begin with, narrowing down to the tunnel of the middle years, then flaring wide again before the sands ran out."
Other stories, such as "Every Third Thought," tend to be a little more depressing. A mother of three daughters becomes obsessed with death as many of her friends become ill and begin to die. But this story, like many of Simpson's, is written with aplomb, getting right to the heart of the matter within the first few paragraphs.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Heather Darcy, 2008

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