The cad with the turquoise eyes

Clare Boylan's short stories are sharp, witty and irrestistibly brilliant about men. ; That Bad Woman by Clare Boylan Little, Brown, pounds 13.99

It is unusual for any writer of short stories to produce a collection which doesn't contain at least one dud. To sustain a high standard in that famously tricky genre is hard. Katherine Mansfield and William Trevor are rare exceptions.

In her latest collection, That Bad Woman, Clare Boylan scores every one a winner - almost. The three exceptions out of a total of 15 stand out all the more precisely because the other 12 are so good. One of the duds is a thinly-disguised and feeble piss-take of Barbara Cartland, which makes one nearly sorry for the "daft old bat", an achievement indeed. A ruthless hackette goes to interview "Arabella Cartwheel" with the sole intention of "climbing so far up her nose that the old lady would tell her to ... off." While the whole story strives to be funny, it is just plain silly. This is a pity, because Boylan is actually funny, as she amply proves in the title story, among others.

Where she is not satirising a woman who is surely beyond satire, where she's not having UFOs and children from Mars visiting lonely widows, and where she's not pretending to be Charlotte Bronte in "The Secret Diary of Mrs Rochester", Boylan is sharp, and witty, and irresistibly brilliant about men. A second husband in one story takes his beautiful young wife in his arms when she tells him she's "late". "This is hell, he thought," but then, "There was a fainting stirring of optimism. They had been given a remission: nine months' worry-free fucking."

Elsewhere, the young lover of an older, married woman called Camilla manages "to suck all the steel out of her body and leave behind only accessible flesh. Employing his array of compliments he had filleted her." It is this same turquoise-eyed lover who later declares, "Darling, I've never felt this way before." Talking about marriage, he is "transformed by tenderness." We feel Camilla at this moment is herself transformed by the excitement of illicit anticipation. "Congratulate me, darling," he then adds. "Her name is Heather." It is a wonderfully excruciating moment, compounded by the despicable explanation of his which follows. " 'I picked you with great care,' he exulted. 'It had to be someone whose life was totally fulfilled. Otherwise I would have felt a shit.' "

And you want to exclaim, yes, this is what Boylan's about, this is her strength, for it is only a brave, courageous, and perceptive writer who can pull this off, this character, this moment. In lesser hands, it would be completely implausible. Male readers would scoff that no man would behave like that; even female ones might wonder if shits can really be that callous. But Boylan makes you so sure of it, you think, indeed they can; indeed, in real life, they so often do.

It is to be hoped that men will read and appreciate this collection as much as women will surely do. It is also to be hoped that they enjoy Boylan's clever observations of women and men alike, from the childless lady who steals a baby from outside a supermarket, (Boylan is excellent on the scratchy suspicion and tacit competition between women who have children and those who don't); to the old comedian who vaguely battles with his conscience when a plain Lolita figure attaches herself to him because she wants to get into show business. Male readers might even, unlike me, relish the UFOs.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all