Review: From The Fifteenth District by Mavis Gallant


The Fifteenth District by Mavis Gallant

Publication date: December 16, 2014


From The Fifteenth District is a collection of short stories about European émigrés struggling to find their way in the world during pre and post WW II.  The stories have a somber feeling to them, with themes of relationships, aging, displacement and longing woven throughout it.  I preferred her short stories over the longer ones as they felt drawn out. Gallant’s stark writing style has a unique combination of being nonchalant and flippant.

As an example, here are some quotes From The Fifth District:

“His smile was like a sentence uttered too soon.”

“All that prevented him from weeping in the street was the thought that he had never seen a man do that.”

“I’ve discovered something else”, she said abruptly. “It is that sex and love have nothing in common. Only a coincidence, sometimes. You think the coincidence will go on and so you get married. I suppose that is what men are born knowing and women learn by accident.”

Gallant’s writing is sad, musical and  beautiful. If you read too much of her stories in one sitting, you may feel as if you’ve finished a Thanksgiving meal. I read the book in small bites –just enough to get a sweet taste of sorbet, but longing for more.

*** I received an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.***

My Father Amongst Dragon’s Teeth in WW II

My Dad Amongst Dragon's Teeth in WW II

A picture of my father, age nineteen, standing by a field of Dragon’s teeth while fighting by The Siegfried Line. Nearly his entire troop was replaced three times during the war. He was one of three men who survived from the original troop.

“Dragon’s teeth were used by all sides in the European Theatre. The Germans made extensive use of them in the Siegfried Line and the Atlantic Wall. Typically, each “tooth” was 90 to 120 cm (3 to 4 ft) tall depending on the precise model. Land mines were often laid between the individual “teeth”, and further obstacles constructed along the lines of “teeth” (such as barbed wire to impede infantry, or diagonally placed steel beams to further hinder tanks). The French army employed them in the Maginot Line, while many were laid in the United Kingdom in 1940–1941 as part of the effort to strengthen the country’s defences against a possible German invasion.”

Souce: Wikipedia

For The Grammar Freaks Out There (like me): Among vs. Amongst

“Amongst is a variant of among. There is no difference between them. While amongst is fairly common—though still rare compared to among—in British, Australian, and Canadian English, it is rare in American English and may even have an archaic ring.The -st at the end of amongst is a holdover from a period of English in which sounds were added to words (usually nouns) to make adverbs. Other examples of words inflected this way include alwaysoncewhence, and unawares, and there are a few other -st adverbs such as whilst and amidst.”