98 Followers
70 Following
Merle

Merle

The Best of Saki

The Best of Saki - Saki

I picked up this book after reading “The Open Window” online; the strong writing and clever twist made me curious to read more from Saki. These are bite-sized stories, only a few pages long, but this doesn’t prevent them from feeling complete and being quite engaging. Though their subjects are well-off Englishpeople at the turn of the twentieth century, they aren’t as tame as you might expect: common subjects include elaborate practical jokes and people (including small children) being killed by animals. A few even have an unexpected supernatural bent.

There appears to be more than one collection with the same title but slightly different tables of contents (stories cited by other reviewers here are absent from the volume I read), so I’m not sure if the book I will be describing is the same one you’re likely to read. But I have some doubts about whether the volume I read actually contains the “best” of Saki’s short stories: it includes a selection of 38 stories from five different collections, which improve markedly as the book progresses. The first three, very brief, stories are simply monologues from a clever and smug young man. After that the stories quickly develop tight plotting, which remains the case for the rest of the book. They are often quite clever, though emotionally cold; only in a few places in the collection does one character seem to genuinely care for another, and without the story making it ridiculous. A long stretch of stories feature the aloof, sardonic Clovis, a practical jokester with as much regard for others as your average sociopath. Toward the end the stories seem to be thawing a bit, as well as diversifying. Unfortunately, the author was killed in World War I, so we don’t know what he might have written next.

Overall, I enjoyed the collection: the stories are well-written, interesting and clever, although often darker than expected. And this particular grouping allows the reader to see a writer’s development if nothing else. I would read more from Saki, but I would choose his later collections.

 

 

The table of contents from the version I read:

Reginald
Reginald at the Theatre
Reginald on House-Parties
Reginald’s Drama

Reginald in Russia
The Reticence of Lady Anne
Gabriel-Ernest
Cross-Currents
The Mouse

The Chronicles of Clovis
Esme
The Match-Maker

Tobermory
The Background
The Unrest-Cure
The Jesting of Arlington Stringham
Sredni Vashtar
The Quest
The Easter Egg
The Peace of Mowsle Barton
The Talking-Out of Tarrington
The Secret Sin of Septimus Brope

Beasts and Super-Beasts
The She-Wolf
The Boar-Pig
The Brogue
The Open Window
The Schartz-Metterklume method
The Seventh Pullet
Clovis on Parental Responsibilities
A Holiday Task
The Stalled Ox
The Story-Teller
A Defensive Diamond
The Elk
The Lumber-Room

The Toys of Peace
Louise
The Guests
The Penance
Quail Seed
The Seven Cream Jugs
Hyacinth