‘Erewhon’ by Helen Simpson

I first came across Helen Simpson’s work in 1994, the year I sat my GCSEs. Her debut collection Four Bare Legs in a Bed was given away with Cosmopolitan magazine, back in the days when books were regularly given away with monthly glossies. In some ways, it feels like the first grown-up book I ever read. Here was a glimpse into a world of adult women which I was yet to enter or fully understand.

In 2016, when I had experienced more than enough of what it means to be a woman in the world, I saw Simpson at an event in London. During the evening, she read a story from her latest collection Cockfosters. ‘Erewhon’ is narrated by a man, a teacher, awake at 4am, worrying about the kids and money and media representations while his wife snores beside him. As Simpson read the story, we laughed. It was funny hearing our own fears through the voice of a male protagonist. All this shit we worry about, it’s hilarious, right? Right?

From Cockfosters. Available to read here

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