Mr Wrong is a book of short stories by Elizabeth Jane Howard.
I expected a romance, with an unsuitable fellow from the title story, Mr Wrong, but couldn’t have been further from the mark. All I have to say after reading this story is, don’t pick up hitch-hikers.
The author brought me to tears during a seven-page story, Summer Picnic, which tells of several generations picnicking together. A woman from each generation remembers or experiences her first kiss during this story. It made me smile when I realised that each generation believe they are the first to discover romance.
Pont du Gard tells of an unhappily married couple holidaying in France with their youngest daughter and her friend. The husband tells the wife abut the end of his latest affair, looking for sympathy from her, but as soon as he has that off his chest, notices how attractive his daughter’s friend is. These characters are nasty and I was glad to finish this story.
The Proposition is the story of a job interview, but the actual position turns out to be a surprise. If I told you the young man being interviewed was handsome enough to be a model and his services were expected to be used exclusively by an older man, what would you think the job was? Me too. But you’ll never guess what he is to be employed to do.
The Devoted is a story that takes place over Christmas, with a grandmother, two brothers, their wives and their children all telling part of the story. For me, this story made it clear that some of us are the devoted, while others are the subject of our devotion.
Child’s Play is a story about women, and being Daddy’s girl. Daddy’s girls can always be relied upon to look after their father when they are old, to forgive their fathers anything and to blame their mothers for everything. Sadly, every mother of a daughter will relate to this story to some extent and every daughter will also recognise this truth in her heart, to some extent, whether she admits it or not. As the mother of a daughter and as a daughter, Child’s Play left me feeling uncomfortable with this realisation.
Toutes Direction is another unpleasant story. A woman goes on holiday in France, then finishes up her visit by staying overnight with an old school friend. When she arrives, she learns the old friend is to have an illegal abortion that night. The woman helps out by holding the bucket, then has a quickie with the friend’s lover en route to the train station. Not my idea of a holiday.
Three Miles Up is another ghost story. Two friends go on a canal boat holiday and pick up a hitch hiker, (they should have read Mr Wrong), who cooks for them and keeps the peace, but they never seem to get anywhere. (Neither did this story, really).
Although Mr Wrong was published in 1984, most of the stories didn’t seem dated at all. I thought Summer Picnic and Child’s Play were the best stories in the collection, and on the strength of them, intend to read a full novel by this author in future, although I hope she has written about some characters who aren’t miserable, or selfish or nasty. Most of the characters in this collection were horrible.