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About the book
  • Published: 1 July 2010
  • ISBN: 9781409090854
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 144

In-Flight Entertainment

‘A masterful contemporary exponent of the genre. Simpson now deserves to be compared with Flannery O'Connor and Alice Munro’ Observer

Poignant, perceptive and dazzling, in this, her long awaited new collection, Helen Simpson offers acute portraits of lives in transition: of changes for the better, lives stalled and in freefall; of love, loss, and sudden revelations. Warm and funny, the stories are also threaded with a sense of anxiety and fear: of growing old, of commitment, and, most worryingly, of the growing threat to the environment.

In the title story, Alan, on a transatlantic flight, is delighted by an unusual upgrade to a first class seat, but is to find his journey disturbed by portents of doom; a family discussion over the fate of a trapped squirrel unexpectedly veers to nearly reveal a shocking truth; and a boy contemplates a parallel life after asking his mother for help with his creative writing homework.

Elsewhere Patrick, newly deaf and belligerent, is forced to re-examine his life with the help of a supernatural hearing aid; a profound, heartfelt and distracted prayer is offered for a friend’s health and safety; and in ‘The Festival of the Immortals’, two old friends look back on their lives with joy and regret, as they wait to heckle Charlotte Brontë. Moving deftly between the domestic and the fantastical, from tragedy to comedy, this is a remarkable collection from a master of the genre; each story brilliantly realised, beautifully captured and utterly engrossing.

  • Pub date: 1 July 2010
  • ISBN: 9781409090854
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 144

About the Author

Helen Simpson

Helen Simpson's sixth short-story collection, Cockfosters, follows Four Bare Legs in a Bed (1990), Dear George (1995), Hey Yeah Right Get a Life (2000), Constitutional (2005) and In-Flight Entertainment (2010). A Bunch of Fives: Selected Stories (2012) includes five stories from each of her first five collections. She has received the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, the Somerset Maugham Award, the Hawthornden Prize and the E.M.Forster Award. She lives in London.

Also by Helen Simpson

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Praise for In-Flight Entertainment

“Queen of domestic wryness”


“Poignant, perceptive, dazzling”

Sebastian Shakespeare, Tatler

“(Simpson) is one of the most sharply funny writers in England today”

Kate Webb, Times Literary Supplement

“Simpson's art is...refined for being so seemingly effortless, unforced and entertaining”

Amanda Craig, New Statesman

“This collection is as brilliant as her previous ones”

Stephanie Cross, The Lady

“The collection as a whole is carefully organised, with the lightest piece butting against the most death-haunted one and a tidy distribution of public and private themes”

Christopher Taylor, Guardian

“If its subject matter is undeniably uncheery, it is written with a lightness of touch - and a deep but understated poeticism”

Lorna Bradbury, Telegraph

“Simpson's gifts are a lyrical vocabulary, an authoritative form, a special funny-sad quality and a subtlety of understanding... Add in political argument, and she is a key voice for our time”

Margaret Reynolds, The Times

“When it comes to contemporary maestros of the short-story form, Helen Simpson is up there with Alice Munro... If they had any sense the 10:10 carbon-reduction campaign would distribute this book for free, such is its power”

Lucy Atkins, The Sunday Times

“Helen Simpson rarely puts a foot wrong in these stories. She is a wry, humane and brilliant observer of our peculiar condition”

William Palmer, Independent

“Clever and sharp”

Amber Pearson, Daily Mail

“Short-story maestro Simpson has produced a collection that asks a central question: are we really going to watch our planet heat up and die? The answer, her finely controlled tales suggest, is yes”

Sunday Times Summer Reading

“Simpson has such a way of sneaking under the epidermis of British middle-class anguish.... 'Wickedly funny and painfully true”

Kate Saunders, The Times

“Fasten your seatbelts and enjoy these first-class stories from the mistress of the genre”


“There isn't a word wasted in the whole book, a virtuoso series of variations on a theme...Whether eavesdropping on passengers during a flight or on couples watching movies in Paris, Simpson does not miss a trick.”

Mail on Sunday

“Elegant short stories...cleverly bring home their serious message.”

Esther Freud, Daily Telegraph, Christmas round up

“Shows her at her challenging best”

Maggie O'Farrell, Daily Telegraph, Christmas round up

“Superbly crafted morality tales, such being Simpson's specialty. Her stories, like the best stories, give the impression of being the last word on the subject, even if, or especially if, that word is enigmatic and open-ended. (She ends her stories beautifully, and never quite the same way twice.) We are told that people these days no longer read short stories. However, they should make an exception for Simpson, and are quite right to do so.”

Nicholas Lezard, Guardian

“These are punchy little stories, full of hidden woe and impending doom”

William Leith, Scotsman

“There are more typical stories in this volume about marriages in decline, infidelity and friendship, and they work wonderfully. But it is the stories about climate change that may have you pacing the house at night, switching off your electrical equipment”

Lucy Atkins, Sunday Times

“The sharpness and poeticism of this collection of short stories will feel familiar to Simpson's admirers”

Daily Telegraph

“Each story creates a whole world, beautifully described and instantly recognisable. Simpson is a writer who has honed her skills in her chosen area of the short story so well that you know you are reading a master”

The Bookbag

“Short-story maestro Simpson has produced a collection that asks: are we really going to watch our planet heat up and die? The answer, her finely controlled tales suggest, is yes.”

Sunday Times

“Acerbic, humorous portraits of middle-class metropolitan life'”


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