Wednesday 9 April 2008

Just Too Sad

I've recently been on a bit of a short story binge, working my way through the brilliant work of Alice Munro with side-excursions into the work other writers. One of these excursions led me to Cressida Connolly's The Happiest Days. Here's the cover of the (Picador US) edition I have.

It's a collection of stories about, involving or told from the viewpoint of young children. The cover image is at first glance a slightly ironic appropriation of what I assume, from the colour reproduction, is an image from an old magazine or knitting catalogue. It's quite sweet and faintly daggy.

Once you've read the book, though, especially the story 'Granville Hill', the cover takes on a very different implication. It's a story about a teenaged girl whose younger sister is dying of cancer, and who is troubled by the shifting attentions and traumas this induces in her parents. It's very, very good, and perfectly captures the awful way in which little kids seem to have an almost infinite capacity for hurt and the pain the world can inflict on them. To read that story, and then look at the cover again, seeing the two girls as the story's sisters, may well break your heart.

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