Book Reviews

I’ve been reading some Saki.


By the Open Window by Konstantin Makovsky c. 1910

It’s nearly the end of the month, and I finally had the inclination to read a handful of short stories. Thanks mostly, I think, to Jay for his pointing out a rather handy short story ereader app. I was going through it and coming across some Saki shorts I decided to read them. Two were stories I had read a long while ago, and two were rather new to me. The new-to-me ones were rather unlike the other Saki I have read before, though it felt rather Saki-ish, if you know what I mean. Here they are in the order I read them this evening:

The Music on the Hill

Sylvia Seltoun is feeling rather triumphant about getting her husband, Mortimer, to remove to their country house away from the evils of the town. But her triumph is rather short-lived when she scorns the existence of the god Pan and his power in the woods of Yessney.

This is a very short story, about 4 pages long, but rather eerie. I don’t really know what else I can say without giving the story away. Only this remark I have to make, if you believe in good you must necessarily believe in evil and vice versa.

The Peace of Mowsle Barton

Mowsle Barton goes into the country for some peace and quiet, only to find himself witness to the old, irritant feud between two withered old witches. His initial disbelief turns to conviction and then to his scooting back to town to find peace midst the bustle of town life.

This was a rather amusing piece, in a way, and if found myself chuckling in a place or two. It strikes me, while reading these Saki shorts, that the writer is rather skeptical about country life and sees much there to shudder at as in town life. Perhaps he’s saying peace in the country is overrated? Perhaps not everyone is made up for peace in the country? I could relate to that in a way. While I love the idea that surrounds a little cottage in the hills with a lovely garden in the outskirts of a forest, I would long for the sounds of heavy laden truck and traffic filled roads in a matter of a day or two!! Sad…but true.

The Open Window

This was simply hilarious and one I’ve read twice or thrice before. A young man, again off to the country to cure his nerves, comes to visit a Mrs Sappleton. The first person to greet and meet with him is the niece of the household, a highly imaginative little girl who sends her guest running for his life! There isn’t much else I can say about it except, that in looking for a picture to put into this post I came across a blog that analyses this short story of about 4 pages, rather deeply. I didn’t go through it completely save to notice that the blogger mentions how Saki turns the symbol of the open window, which ought to have stood for openness and honesty, into a symbol of deception. Interesting, no?


I’ve read this one once before. A Mr Appin claims to have taught the cat of his hosts how to talk. Lady Blemley, Sir Wilfrid and their guests are skeptical about this claim, and Tobermory is soon brought in to demonstrate his powers of speech. The novelty of it all soon turns to unease and horror and the cat begins to spill out everyone’s secrets.

This, too, is a highly amusing tale, and a true satire about that strata of society…the hypocrisy and falseness involved in high society’s “friendships”. I think it’s also a rather milder take on the theme that surrounds the likes of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein — leave well alone or we create our own monsters.

I’ve been reading these for the Short Story Initiative hosted by Nancy.

8 thoughts on “I’ve been reading some Saki.

  1. Hi Risa,
    Thanks for the “shout out.” ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m so glad to hear my post about the short stories app has led you to read (and reread) some stories. I have a whole volume of Saki stories on my shelf of which I have barely scratched the surface. Your great short summaries really make me want to rectify this…

    1. ๐Ÿ˜€ …this app is definitely good for lazy old me! And I’m glad this post has encouraged you to read more Saki. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I kept thinking the name “Saki” sounded familiar, and then I realized it’s because of “Tobermory” — I was an assistant teacher at my old high school one spring, and this was one of the stories the World Lit students had just finished reading before I started helping out in their class. Very cool!

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