Picks and Pans Review: Mum and Mr. Armitage

UPDATED 08/31/1987 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/31/1987 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Beryl Bainbridge

These dozen stories are by an original, funny British writer who has a singular view of her fellow human beings. In the title story, a resort hotel comes to life only when Mum and Mr. Armitage appear. They are lively. They play tricks; when they are gone, the permanent guests recount their outrageous behavior. Then one day, trying to be kind to a lonely old recluse, Mum and Mr. Armitage go too far. Their stunts inspire a silly young woman to play a frightening prank, and things are never the same. That theme of folks who go too far is echoed in "Beggars Would Ride," a fantasy about an ancient device that grants wishes. When one terrible tennis player stumbles over it, he wishes that he and his opponent might have a good game. They then play brilliantly and one of them begins to think of Wimbledon. But of course they go too far. In "Through a Glass Brightly," a middle-aged man is stranded in life when his wife deserts him for a woman. The man tells fortunes at a neighborhood fair and finds a satisfying revenge. Bainbridge's characters are wonderful actors, straining, blustering to entertain us—a little naive, often muddled. These stories, like her novels, are packed with a point of view that is uniquely British and uniquely Bainbridgian. (McGraw-Hill, $15.95)

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