The Dressing-Up Box

The stories in David Constantine’s fifth collection all orbit around a moment of personal crisis, a pressure point where the weight of the past or the present becomes unbearable. These crises may be brought on by a bereavement, a personal failure or trauma, or a crisis of identity. But in all cases, what’s at stake is a life worth living, a space that tolerates us as humans, regardless of how intolerant we’ve been towards it of late: that is to say, a hospitable, rather than a hostile environment.

Many of the protagonists in these stories are children: loved, abused, in danger, they represent the fragile, threatened hope for a better future. In other stories, children appear as an encouragement in an adult world that appears to be drifting inexorably towards ignorance and isolation. Whether set in Paris in the early 19th Century, on the Pennine moors, or amid the defiant multiculturalism of Oxford’s Cowley Road, these stories also remind us that even in the darkest of times new germs of hope are quietly taking root.

Join us on the launch event tour in Halifax, Manchester and Edinburgh this September! 

[proof cover]

Praise for David Constantine:

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

‘Constantine’s writing is rare today, unafraid to be rich and allusive and unashamedly moving.’ – The Independent


Praise for The Dressing-Up Box:

'Dramatic, daring and dark... There's enormous tension to the stories, but there is often a small but powerful moment of hope.' Hear The Dressing-Up Box reviewed on BBC Radio 4's Saturday Review.

'The Dressing-Up Box does the deepest work of fiction - it tells us strange, hard, beautiful truths for our time. Constantine offers a quietly furious and moving collection packed with undefended children and lost adults, personalities grown eccentric under stress and raging for mercy. Nightmares shift, blood flows in rivers and humanity responds with strange mercy, humour and a desperate appetite for love.' - A. L. Kennedy

'Profoundly a book for our time, full of despair, sorrow, terror, hope and tenderness, The Dressing-Up Box confirms what Constantine's readers have suspected for years: that he may be the greatest living English short story writer.' - Gregory Norminton

'A brilliant collection.' - Ian McMillan

'Precise in their intensity, unsettling, suddenly and unexpectedly luminous, these stories will stay with you and unfurl within you.' - Lucy Caldwell

'A beautifully crafted tender, evocative collection. Full of wisdom and light.' - Irenosen Okojie

'David Constantine's fifth collection of stories is a fierce and tender meditation on our struggle to live - a lyrical and plainspoken portrait of humanity at its pernicious worst and its suffering, creative, resilient best.' - Carys Davies

'David Constantine is fearless. His work is dark and daring while, at turns, also humorous and tender. This collection cements his position as one of the UK's finest short story writers.' - Paul McVeigh

'Constantine's writing is addictive. Every sentence is another shot of beauty, of mystery and mastery. How does he do it? You can read his stories over and over - you will always return for more. This fifth collection proves, yet again, he is a master of the short story.' - Lara Pawson

'In the title story of David Constantine's new collection, the Dressing-Up Box is a seemingly bottomless repository of costumes that allows children in a dystopian future to re-enact less turbulent times. Across the volume, characters are caughts between the uncertain future and the shadow of the past. Constantine's rolling sentences create their own world that catches the imagination.' - David Hebblethwaite

'Unlike anything I've ever read! It's deliriously beautiful!' - Patty, Waterstones Witney

'Some of the stories feel a little like myths being retold, or new takes on old legends, but perhaps, in dark times. David Constantine is suggesting that we might need to look backwards in order to move forwards.' - Sarah-Clare Conlon, Creative Tourist

Buy Hard Copy

Currently unavailable

Book Details

12 Sep 2019

About the Author

David Constantine

Born in Salford in 1944, David Constantine worked for thirty years as a university teacher of German language and literature. He has published several…
Read more

More by David Constantine

Tea at the Midland

The characters in David Constantine’s fourth collection are often delicately caught in moments of defiance. Constantine’s bewitching, finely-wrought stories give us permission to escape.

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.