As well as being a short-story writer, Constantine is highly respected as a poet and translator, and this fifth book of superb short fiction confirms an extraordinary talent slowly gaining more mainstream recognition: one of his previous tales was adapted into the Oscar-nominated film 45 Years. The havens and refuges in the present collection are something more than escapist, and gain power from Constantine’s engagement with the sadness and atrocity of the real world: these can be spaces of asylum, resistance and even victory.
David Constantine is one of very few contemporary writers to have been able to take all sorts of routes and paths and detours and to have produced a coherent body of work over many years in a number of genres and forms... What do they all have in common, these many effusions and activities? What makes them Constantinian? They are all careful, subtle, intelligent works – serious, unshowy, often surprisingly moving. Fans will be delighted to discover that Constantine’s fifth collection of short stories, The Dressing-Up Box, continues in the same mode. The big difference in this book is that many of the stories concern children – and in particular children under threat, from themselves, from other children and from adults.