The Old Forest and Other Stories by Peter Taylor
The Goods: Peter Taylor is kind of like Woody Allen. Hear me out. If you want to learn about the customs and rituals of educated, upper class New Yorkers, Woody Allen is your go-to guy. And among writers who lay claim to a certain time, place, and people, Peter Taylor is the undisputed authority on the world of wealthy Memphians in the 1930s and 40s.
One might ask, are stories about the trials and tribulations of stuffy cotton brokers and their spoiled families really filling some void in the literary universe? And to that, I reply, perhaps you've heard of a broad named Jane Austen...
The title story centers around Nat Ramsey, a well-to-do young man who is very complacently about to wed an appropriate girl and embark on a soul-sucking career in the family business. In Nat's social circles, it is common for men to carry on flirtations and friendships with girls who stay in boarding houses and frequent juke joints, in many cases, right up until their wedding days.
Nat is involved in a minor car accident with one of these women the week before his wedding, but before the police arrive, she runs away into the Overton Park forest and disappears. Suddenly, the situation becomes delicate, as Nat's boring future, his fiancee's honor, and the Ramsey family name all hang on finding a woman who does not want to be found before his wedding day.
Nobody does the Southern novel of manners better than Peter Taylor. If you liked The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy, or any story where a woman can find herself shamed, ruined, or wholly undone with the flick of a fan, this book is for you.