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How much cruelty can you squeeze into a 150,000 word novel?
A huge amount, if that book is Lady Anna, written by Anthony Trollope at the astonishing rate of 16,500 words a week on a voyage from England to Australia between 25 May and 19 July 1871.
The plot (no spoilers follow) revolves around a conflict: should the eponymous heroine marry a low-born tailor; or a young earl, of her own class? She loves the tailor – or does she? Almost every other character in the book, especially her mother, believes she should marry the earl; and subject her to extraordinary pressure to bring about this result.
This is heavy stuff. As so often with Trollope, his female characters are often more attractive than his men, some of whom, like Anna’s father the earl, are vile:
It must be told that the Earl was a man who had never yet spared a woman in his lust. It had been the rule, almost the creed of his life, that woman was made to gratify the appetite of man, and that the man is but a poor creature who does not lay hold of the sweetness that is offered to him… The life which he had led no doubt had had its allurements, but it is one which hardly admits of a hale and happy evening. Men who make women a prey, prey also on themselves. (more…)
- You can read excerpts of each story on this site (see below);
- You can buy Seven Hotel Stories: The Complete Collection; (e-book) or Seven Hotel Stories (paperback)
- If you fancy trying a single story, you can read The Two Rooms completely free on this site by way of an introduction.
- I often publish new stories so keep on eye on my five pleasure paths for a guide to everything on this site.
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THE WHITE BLOUSE (Excerpt)
A short story by Robert Pimm
If I am honest, I do not like border crossings.
It is a lonely place in the passport queue, waiting to enter the country of C— . But what to do?
In addition, I know I should not complain because I am here by choice. It was my decision, to apply for a job in this country. When I was successful I was so pleased that I went out shopping and bought myself a new white blouse, which is folded up in the big black suitcase at my side. But now, waiting in a room which I do not think has been painted or even cleaned for many years, I am wondering if I have made the right decision either applying for this job or accepting it.
The country of C— is remote. There are not even direct flights to C— from most countries. Instead, I must fly to a neighbouring country, R—. R— has a capital city whose airport is a hub for the region. From there I must take a taxi fifty kilometres to the border of C—. Once I am through passport control I will hire a taxi on the other side of the border and continue to my destination.
I have already been waiting thirty minutes.
But now I am at the front of the queue.
The passport officer is a tall man with a black moustache and a khaki-coloured shirt which is stretched out tight by a large belly. He looks down at me in a way I do not like.
‘So,’ he says in English. ‘You are coming to work in our country?
‘Yes,’ I reply. My work permit is with my passport on the counter in front of him so I cannot think what else to say.
‘You want to work in a hotel. As a head receptionist.’ He says this as if it is something dirty. ‘Your customers will like that. You are a very attractive woman.’
He smiles at me, but not in a good way.
‘Is that a problem?’ I say.
‘I think we must do a customs search.’ He looks at my black suitcase, then he looks for a longer time at me, and licks his lips. ‘Come.’ He points to a door behind the counter.
The following is an excerpt from the second of the “Hotel Stories” series, The Two Rooms. The Hotel Stories series takes a wry look at the sex, humour and power plays beneath the surface of modern hotel life. The series has been described by one reviewer as “Wonderful, feminist and dark. Not three words that often go together.”
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THE TWO ROOMS (Excerpt)
A short story by Robert Pimm
‘I’m not moving. That’s final.’
Mr Burke is a tall, dark-haired man in a designer denim jacket with subtle stubble and a deep, melodious voice. He’s achingly good-looking and he knows it.