Coming with content that always feels fresh and original, this third offering from the Bristol Short Story Prize is about as close to the perfect short story anthology as it gets. There really is something in here for everyone, and I don't just mean one or two of the stories. Sure you're going to like some tales more than others, but whereas most anthologies are a bit hit-and-miss, with the content varying from the really good to the really bad, Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Vol. 3 manages to remain consistently above average throughout; something which is rarely seen in most short fiction anthologies of this type, these days.
Favourites? Well, the winning story from the 2010 Prize - `Mum's The Word' by Valerie O'Riordan, is 'punch in the gut' magnificent. O'Riordan demonstrates with exquisite flair that it is possible to create a powerful and memorable story in the restricted confines of the flash fiction form (no easy task).
However, while O'Riordan is the deserved winner of the 2010 Prize, there are other stories in this collection which could have just as easily have taken the title. Ashley Jacob's `Conservation of Angular Momentum' for instance, is about a guy who suddenly finds himself outside of the hot air balloon he was floating in, over the City of Bath. It's a deliciously witty tale, and oh so original.
Then there's Marli Roode's `Spring Tide' which is a powerful and thoughtful contemplation on the inevitability of death and how reminders of our fragility and unavoidable fate are forever around us.
Clare Wallace's `But Then Again, Maybe it is' is another great story, which comes with a brilliantly warm yet hapless main character. One cannot help but feel complete empathy for the poor chap, after he reveals how much he loves his girlfriend and how he caused them to split up.
And what about `The Meek Inherit' by Natasya Parker which tells the sad and sorrowful tale of Mariette, and her barely existing life in the slums of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. This one's not a feel good story by any stretch, but how dull reading would be if every story had a Disney ending.
I could go on but I won't. There are twenty stories in this anthology, which represents great value for money, and even more so when you consider that all have been hand-picked by a panel of quality judges. I said at the outset that all of the stories contained within are above average, and that's down to the skill of these judges. So, if you don't think short stories are your 'thing' then I urge you to think again. Give this one a try because I've a feeling it may well change your mind.