Tea at the Midland



The characters in David Constantine’s fourth collection are often delicately caught in moments of defiance. Disregarding their age, their family, or the prevailing political winds, they show us a way of marking out a space for resistance and taking an honest delight in it. Witness Alphonse – having broken out of an old people’s home, changed his name, and fled the country – now pedalling down the length of the Rhône, despite knowing he has barely six months to live. Or the clergyman who chooses to spend Christmas Eve – and the last few hours in his job – in a frozen, derelict school, dancing a wild jig with a vagrant called Goat. Key to these characters’ defiance is the power of fiction, the act of holding real life at arm’s length and simply telling a story – be it of the future they might claim for themselves, or the imagined lives of others. Like them, Constantine’s bewitching, finely-wrought stories give us permission to escape, they allow us to side-step the inexorable traffic of our lives, and beseech us to take possession of the moment.


Selected as one of the Books of the Year 2012 by the TLS and the London Evening Standard. 

‘Perhaps the finest of contemporary writers in this form.’ – The Reader

'The excellence of the collection is fractal: the whole book is excellent, and every story is excellent, and every paragraph is excellent, and every sentence is excellent. And, unlike some literary fiction, it's effortless to read.' - The Independent on Sunday

'Masterful...pregnant with fluctuating interpretations and concealed motives.' - The Guardian

'Peculiarity is wrapped into the heart of David Constantine’s collection; in its characters and their fragile lives.' - The Financial Times

A. S. Byatt has described reading a previous collection of Constantine's short fiction as akin to experiencing ''a series of short shocks of (agreeably envious) pleasure''. Tea at the Midland shows the author to be on equally sparkling form again.' - The TLS

'This is a superb collection of stories: Constantine's writing is rare today, unafraid to be rich and allusive and unashamedly moving.' - The Independent

'Restrained, delicate, a small, perfectly shaped moment in which nothing monumental seems to happen – only it does, really. Stylistically, it is elegant, nothing is superfluous.' - The Scotsman

'Spellbinding.' - The Irish Times

'An exacting wordsmith, David Constantine is always in complete control of his material, every sentence exquisitely wrought to convey exactly the mood he intends.' - The Good Book Guide

'Touched at times with humour and infused with compassion, these complex, nuanced stories speak repeatedly of lives lived in some form of exile, yet manage to keep in play the possibility that exile is not, contrary to appearances, our true condition.' - New Welsh Review

'Constantine's stories are not pre-prepared in any sense; he starts anew every time. Inspired by that image or specific instance, his work has a feeling of wholeness and growth. Natural phenomena are deeply expressive.' - The Irish Post

'Constantine is not a writer motivated by plot. His stories centre on moments, conversations, meetings that feel like small details picked out from a larger tapestry. His characters are strange and vividly drawn.' - Litro Magazine

'Constantine is, quite clearly, a master draughtsman at work, and the short story is his ideal canvas.' - The Short Review

'Many people are damaged or destroyed but some fight back. Sometimes a respectable clergyman lets his hair down. Sometimes a lonely man reaches out to a sympathetic woman...' - The Oxford Times

'A masterful collection of short stories. Constantine’s uncanny portrayal of characters as both familiar and enigmatic beings makes for an enthralling read, and his manipulation of words and knack for beautiful phraseology are captivating throughout.' - The Literateur

'Rich in depth and detail.' - Bookmunch

'Constantine’s stories offer a tender documentation of tiny unquenchable moments of compassion, in all its many intangible forms. He speaks of humanity’s capacity for kindness amidst cruelty, of the symbiosis of care and survival.' - Holly Dawson 

Hear Michael Caines from the Times Literary Supplement reading the featured 'Tea at the Midland' Story' Story


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Tea at the Midland
Mr Carlton

Book Details

23 Aug 2012

About the Author

More by David Constantine

The Dressing-Up Box

Much-anticipated fifth collection by decorated short story writer, previous winner of the BBC National Short Story Award and the Frank O‘Connor International Short Story Award.

The Dressing-Up Box

Paperback edition of David Constantine's acclaimed fifth collection of stories, confirming his place as one of the greatest living British short story writers and following undefended children and lost adults as they face the outside world.

Rivers of the Unspoilt World

Constantine intricately interweaves fictional characters and events with the real to create new ways of seeing and connecting our past, present, and possible futures

The Shieling

The characters in David Constantine’s remarkable new collection are united by an urge to absent themselves, to abscond from the intolerable pressures of normal life and withdraw into strange ideas, political causes, even private languages.

Under the Dam

Entering Constantine’s stories is like stepping out into a wind of words, a swarm of language. His prose is as fluid as the water that surges and swells through all his landscapes.

The Life-Writer

A new novel, written by critically acclaimed short story writer, David Constantine.

In Another Country: Selected Stories

Gathering together stories from over two decades of writing, this selection demonstrates why Constantine has been hailed as ‘perhaps the finest of contemporary writers in this form’. Featuring the story that inspired the motion picture, 45 Years.