Gail Godwin

Short Stories by Gail Godwin

Mr. Bedford and the Muses Mr. Bedford and the Muses

Published 1983


Read an Excerpt

The London evening closed around our happy circle and presently, still flushed from laughing, Mrs. Easton got up to turn on a lamp. Whoever happened to pass our window then would have seen such a picture as might make his heart quicken with longing . . . or nostalgia . . . or eagerness to get home: depending on his own domestic circumstances.

A lovely picture and one certain to warm the heart of Carrie Ames, a lonely young American woman, as she settles into a new job abroad. She feels fortunate indeed to have answered the ad placed by Mr. and Mrs. Easton, amusing and genteel Americans in exile, who go to remarkable lengths to make their polyglot collection of tenants feel at home. That the Eastons are not all they seem, and that the webs of affection, possession, pity, and intrigue we weave for one another have strands we never planned, will come as revelations that shake Carrie and turn and shape her as on a wheel. The identity of Mr. Bedford himself, a perfect embodiment of all that has passed before, emerges only at the end.

In the five stories that follow, the Muses are of the author's own acquaintance. They inspirit, in turn, a reluctantly adulterous pianist and his son, a best-selling writer and her protégée, a man beset by an elusive woman who happens to have the same surname, a college girl who learns traumatically who she is -- and is not -- and an American student amid the gaunt literary ghosts of Denmark.

What the novel and the short stories share in abundance is that blend of compassion, grace, and insight, laced with sharp seasonings of the human comedy, which is Gail Godwin's undoubted trademark.


"Delightful. . .The drama unfolds with wonderful humor."
The New York Times

"A MOST APPEALING BOOK. . . Godwin invites the reader into her mind, into the mysterious process through which fiction is created."
The Washington Post Book World

Los Angeles Times

"A SUBTLE WORK OF ALMOST CRYSTALLINE CLARITY. . . Godwin excels at portraying complex relationships."

"Godwin, who has never been less than brilliant, is here passionate as well."
Village Voice Literary Supplement

Ballantine Books | Paperback| 223 pages