Book summary: Martha and Hanwell


Martha and Hanwell is a Penguin Pocket collection of two short stories by British author, Zadie Smith. Martha, Martha was previously published in Granta 81 in 2003. Pam Roberts is a realtor who is showing potential accommodation to a newcomer to town, Martha Penk, but is finding her one-day-stand difficult to satisfy. Hanwell in Hell was previously published in The New Yorker in 2004. It takes the form of a letter to Hanwell’s daughter by a man who met him by chance one night in Bristol. The stories are prefaced by an Author’s Note in which Smith explores the medium of the short story and states that she is not a natural short story writer, finding it an art for which she does not have a talent. And perhaps if this volume consisted only of Martha, Martha, the reader might agree: despite the rich imagery in both stories and the Author’s Note, this story feels unfinished. Hanwell in Hell is, however, a perfectly wonderful short story, complete in and of itself

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