I had a great booky day out yesterday, going to three of the four sessions at ShortStoryVille hosted by the Bristol Prize at the Arnolfini in Bristol.
The first session I attended was a discussion about the impact of The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. The panel was hosted by Bidisha and included authors Cassandra Parkin and Kirsty Logan plus a lecturer from one of the local universities. After reading The Bloody Chamber for the Book Club Forum reading circle earlier this year, it was really interesting to listen to the discussion, and how Carter’s collection was both ground breaking and influential, especially for the two authors on the panel, as well as touching on recent film adaptations of classic fairy tales such as Snow White and the Huntsmen and Mirror, Mirror. Logan read an extract from one of her short stories, and both talked about and showed how they have been influenced themselves by Carter.
Next up was a session on digital short story publication chaired by American professor and short story writer Patricia McNair, with representatives from two independent publishers and the digital publisher for Random House. It was interesting to hear where they felt short stories could be made available through different routes, and the development of social media and interaction between authors, publishers and readers. It was also good to hear from Random House, as an example, are also looking to make more archived material available, as well as developing new authors, and the way that short stories may be marketed in future, using the comparison of singles and albums on iTunes as an example.
The final panel of the day was a chance to hear from three new authors who have been published this year by Bloomsbury, under their Year of the Short Story initiative. I really enjoyed this session, as it was a fantastic opportunity to hear the three authors read from their books, each very different from each other, but all of them sounded great. I’ve added all three books to my wishlist! The authors were Lucy Wood, Dave Wilson and Roshi Fernando.
All in all, it was a brilliant day, and I’m glad I could get to more sessions than I did last year! This is the second year of the event, and I’m hoping they’ll be able to continue in future years.
Date finished: 27th December 2011
I didn’t realise until I was about to buy it, that Christmas At Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons was actually a collection of short stories. I’ve become a fan of short story collections in recent years, so it was a delight to find a collection by Gibbons, as I loved Cold Comfort Farm when I read it a few years ago, and have been wanted to read more of her work, so to match up the author and the short story was a festive bonus.
Although the first story and the title story are both based around the Christmas holiday, the rest of the collection aren’t, however they all have a theme of love, whether it’s finding a new love, rekindling an old love, unexpected love or unrequited love, and all set in the homes and lives of the middle classes in the period between the wars.
Each story seems to have a recurring theme of a person (usually a woman) who appears to be a stereotype of a “certain type”, with their assigned role in society, but each one of them shows a strength of character to show the depth of themselves as an individual. Considering the period in which the stories are written, it was a delight to read of women who were strong and independent, and who had careers as well as wives and mothers, and interesting to look at how even in the 1930s, there was an ongoing dialogue about whether women could have both careers and families, and the balance within their lives.
Gibbons style of writing is very easy to read, with the flavour of writing of that period (the book was originally published in 1940), and has warmth and wit running through it, and I absolutely loved it. I will definitely be coming back to read more of her work.
Date finished: 27th March 2011
Ali Smith’s short story collection Free Love and other stories exceeded my expectations. I’ve read some of her novels, including Girl Meets Boy which is my favourite book ever, but Smith has actually been more prolific as a short story writer and I was worried that they wouldn’t captivate me as much. I was completely wrong. Her writing completely embodies what I love about the short format. She captures a moment in time of the subject, expressing the joy, the sorrow, the love, simply the emotion, and all within the few pages of the story. As I read each story, I felt that I knew the characters, was glimpsing their life for a brief instance, and was completely satisfied with the time I spent with them. Some writers write short stories that feel as though they are a cut down novel, or never feel complete, leaving you wanting more of the characters lives or stories, but Ali Smith gets it right for me. A truly wonderful book.
The Secret Lives of People in Love is the second collection of short stories by Simon Van Booy published by Beautiful Books in the UK. Van Booy won the 2009 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award for his first collection which I loved, and I couldn’t wait to read these new stories set in New York City, Wales, Cornwall, Paris, Rome and Greece. As the title suggests, the stories explore the private feelings and memories of individuals experiences of love.
And it is exquisite. There really isn’t a better word to describe the latest collection of short stories. Tales of love and loss are beautifully written, with the emotions flowing off the page and into your heart.
I am in complete awe of the mastery of a writer who can express the depth of a love between a man and woman, and the heartbreaking sadness of loss within the confines of a story that is only a few pages long, but Simon Van Booy achieves just this.
The first book of his short stories I read was Love Begins In Winter, and these ranged from 25 to 70 pages in length. Although there are some longer stories in The Secret Lives of People In Love, they are on the whole much shorter in length, some just a few pages long. In fact, my favourite, “The Reappearance of Strawberries” is only three pages, but heartbreakingly poignant.
A truly wonderful book that has shot to the top of my favourites for this year.
This is a collection of short stories on the theme of music by Booker Prize winning author, Kazuo Ishiguro, who others have recommended to me in the past.
There is an art to writing short stories, every word is important and needs to be considered due to the brevity of the text. Unfortunately, I don’t think the stories in this collection worked; they all feel as though they are an extract from a novel, incomplete and have not encapsulated the essence of the story or characters successfully for me.
As the author was recommended on the strength of his novels, I would like to try more of his books, but I definitely won’t be bothering with any more of his short stories.
I can’t deny it, I’m addicted to Kelley Armstrong’s supernatural series Women of the Otherworld. This collection of short stories is a great addition to the canon, with some short stories giving us glimpses of the vampire world, the wedding of Paige and Lucas, and the slightly longer look at how Eve Levine and Kristof Nast got together. But for me, the most enjoyable stories were the two longer novellas, the first being the story of how werewolves Elena and Clay met, while the second focusing on an investigation into an alleged vampire kill by Paige and Lucas.
My favourites in the main series tend to be the stories focusing on the werewolves, but Paige and Lucas as quickly catching them up, so this book was a fantastic interlude between books in the main series, and has totally whetted my appetite for the next instalment Waking The Witch due out later this year.
Only available through Waterstone’s, “Ox-Tales” is a set of four collections of short stories, poems and extracts with each one based around a theme of one of the four elements, Earth, Fire, Water and Air. With contributions from well known authors, the books are being sold in aid of Oxfam to promote the charity’s work in various project areas around the world.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my ventures into short stories over the last few years, and I so wanted to enjoy this book what with some of my favourite authors contributing and it being sold in aid of Oxfam, but unfortunately, I found it rather unsatisfying on the whole. The Earth collection included one poem, eight short stories, and one extract from a work in progress. Of these, I did enjoy the Rose Tremain story, and as she’s an author I’ve only read one book by, I was pleased to find I liked this contribution, as I have another book on my TBR list, and lots of recommendations for her others, so I will definitely be reading more. I also loved the extract called “Telescope” by Jonathan Buckley, although I’ve never actually heard of him, the extract was the most intriguing piece in the collection, and I definitely want to read the book when it’s published!
Despite not being particularly inspired by this one, I think I will probably get the others, as they are only £5 each and some of that goes to Oxfam, plus I want to see what some of the other authors I admire have contributed, but I have lowered my expectations after this instalment and will be on the look out for some other short story collections by individual authors, as these have been more rewarding.
I’ve read all the Women of the Otherworld books from Kelley Armstrong, a series fantasy novels based around female supernatural heroines such as werewolves, witches, necromancers, etc. They’re exciting adventures and perfect for light entertainment.
I was dubious about reading this book, because I always felt the strength of the Women of the Otherworld was the female characters, but I was happy to be proven wrong. Ostensibly, this is a collection of two short stories, but actually it’s two short stories, and two novellas. The first short story centres around alpha werewolf Jeremy’s father, then come the two novellas, detailing how Clay became a werewolf and the story of his childhood, adolescence and integration in to the pack, before the final short story brings the focus back to Jeremy.
The great thing about the whole of this book was that it was like reading the authors notebook to a certain extent, as it’s basically the back story of the male characters in the main series. It was fascinating to go back into the history of characters I thought I knew well, and understand more about how they came to be the people they are. As I expect from Armstrong now, it was an easy style of writing, and the strong storytelling which makes you want to keep going with the book and never put it down. Pure entertainment.
This is a collection of short stories from Welsh author Simon Van Booy. The five stories are linked by the theme of love, but also by the theme of childhood. With these two themes in common, it’s probably not unsurprising that the book is emotional and affecting, beginning the heart-breaking dedication at the start of the book.
The collection opens with the longest story, Love Begins In Winter, a tale of grief, and love, and includes an incredible depiction of the recital given by the narrator, a cello soloist. Next is Tiger, Tiger which considers the effects of the relationships of parents on children, followed by The Missing Statues with a different view on a similar theme. The Coming and Going of Strangers is the fourth story, and my favourite in the collection, following Walter who is a wonderfully, romantic hero. Finally, The City of Windy Trees, is another uplifting tale, which shows how seemingly inconsequential meetings make an ordinary life extraordinary.
While some of the best novels are the stories of peoples lives, for me, the best short stories are the glimpses and snapshots of the incidents, emotions and relationships that define an individual, and although I haven’t read a huge amount of short stories, these are some of the best I’ve encountered. The writing is beautifully considered, lyrical and expressive. but in the sparse style which suits the short story format. Although it’s a short 226 page book, I took a good few days to read it, as it requires the time to savour the words on the page, but I can definitely recommend it.
This book is a collection of short stories, originally published in the New Yorker magazine during the second World War. The author was a prolific writer for the magazine throughout her career, submitting a wide range of work including poems, book reviews, London Letters, and Letters from England, as well as these short stories.
The twenty-one stories in this collection are vignettes of Middle England through the war, briefly chronicling the experiences and emotions of her subjects. The stories range from light-hearted, almost wickedly observed meetings of a Red Cross sewing party, to the melancholy tale of a lonely, isolated civil servant, to the sparkling joy of a young bride finally stepping out from the shadow of her sister. The characters are perceptively observed, and the wit and compassion of the writer jumps of the page all the while shrewdly documenting wartime England, and the state of the nation.
Persephone Books are fast becoming my fail safe method of ensuring I read entertaining, intelligent, beautifully written books, and this was no exception. I don’t read a lot of short stories, but these were an absolute joy, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to others.