While working as a journalist there, she struggles to make her way in a “world…intended for men” (the Linnet Muir stories recount this faithfully). There are many memorable male narrators in Gallant’s fiction (Grippes and Poche, for instance) but she is an acute observer of inequity; she frequently situates her female characters so that they must wait and serve, frequently affords them the opportunity to exhibit their frustration or, at least, disappointment with their roles. (Like “Sunday Afternoon”, for example.)
Given the limited duration of Mavis Gallant’s own marriage (during the bulk of it, her husband was serving overseas), it’s easy to read into the “people’s desires are so strange”. Which we also see in her classic story, “The Ice Wagon Going Down the Street” (among others).
Many of her stories also take place in summer, like “One Morning in June”, “An Unmarried Man’s Summer”, “Madeline’s Birthday”, “The Rejection”, and, from earlier in this collection, “Jeux d’Ete” (the title of which also refers to the language issues). And even though it covers a much broader expanse of time, I always think, first, of the summer scenes with Carmela’s new job and home in “The Four Seasons”. It offers the storyteller a chance to build scenes with details from the natural world, like the “mosquitos and moths”, and allows the intensity of heat and humidity to build alongside the tensions in these stories.
And the action unfolds in common domestic scenarios: a father and daughter driving in a car (dealing with the ramifications of the parents’ divorce), two young women new to Paris and striving to make their rent (unable to secure regular employment or supportive relationships), a young wife travelling north with her son in hopes of reconnecting with her husband and receive support for their family.