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The Habit of Loving, by Doris Lessing

Second paragraph of third story ("The woman"):
They surveyed the terrace. A problem! Only one of the tables still remained in sunlight. They stiffly marched towards it, pulled out chairs, seated themselves. At once they opened newspapers and lifted them up like screens.
I had not read much Doris Lessing before (I liked The Summer Before the Dark and didn't care for The Grass is Singing) and was braced for, well, anything, but in fact I thought this was a very interesting set of short stories set in the supposedly repressive middle of the last century (published in 1957) and exploring different lifestyles and emotional choices from the accepted norm. The title story is one of the best, about a middle-aged man whose latest wife is much younger, and is not quite sure why. The other one that really stuck in my mind was the last story, "The eye of God in paradise", about a visit to a corner of Germany that has not moved on from the recent war. There are other gems as well - "The day Stalin died" is practically reportage. All very good - not a cheerful book at all, but quietly enjoyable.

(And yes, I do know that icon is really Agatha Christie.)

This was at the top of my list of books left over from your recommendations for 2016. Next on that list is Austerity Britain, 1945-51, by David Kynaston.

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