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3.8 out of 5 stars75
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 3 July 2014
I read this book over a number of weeks, on my Kindle, without really appreciating just how much reading was involved for 100 stories. It's not like holding a hefty book. But I enjoyed every single one of them. Some of the authors were well-known, others were new to me. Some made me laugh out loud (I'm thinking of Dorothy Parker here), others stopped my breath with sadness. I discovered authors I want to explore further: one of the reasons I have always loved short stories.

The short story form is fascinating. As a writer, I find the form freeing, an opportunity to try something different, to focus tightly on a theme or character that has caught my interest, to play with structure, genre, voice. As a reader I am very demanding, like anthology editor Victoria Hislop I want to be instantly grabbed by a story. "Readers are allowed to be impatient with short stories," she writes. "My own patience limit for a novel which I am not hugely enjoying may be three or four chapters. If it has not engaged me by then, it has lost me and is returned to the library or taken to a charity shop. With a short story, three or four pages are the maximum I allow (sometimes they are only five or six pages long in any case). A short story can entice us in without preamble or background information, and for that reason it had no excuse. It must not bore us even for a second."

So, my favourite stories? Hislop has divided her selection into three sections so I have chosen three from each.

My favourite 3 stories:-
Jeanette Winterson’s ‘Atlantic Crossing’ – the gentle story of love and longing at a distance. My favourite story of all, I think.
Dorothy Parker’s ‘A Telephone Call’ – the stream of consciousness dialogue of waiting for a telephone call is an everywoman story.
'The Artist' by Maggie Gee is about Emma, an unfulfilled wife who employs an East European, Boris, as an odd-job man/builder. He says he is an artist, she doesn’t believe him.

'The First Year of My Life' by Muriel Spark. It starts, "I was born on the first day of the second month of the last year of the First World War, a Friday." An account of war seen through the innocent but at the same time all-knowing eyes of an infant.
'The Pill Box' by Penelope Lively is about the flexibility of imagination. A male teacher and writer is haunted by the past, remembering, wondering how the world would be now if things had happened differently when he was young.
'The Merry Widow' by Margaret Drabble tells the story of Elsa Palmer who, after the death of her husband Philip, goes on the summer holiday they had planned together. Grief overcomes her, but in an unconventional way.

'G-String' by Nicola Barker is about the triumph of the modern knicker. This made me laugh out loud.
'Betty' is the woman who captivates the teenage narrator of Margaret Atwood's tale. "From time to time I would like to have Betty back, if only for an hour's conversation."
'A Society' by Virginia Woolf, about a group of young women on the verge of the Great War who make themselves into a "society for asking questions. One of us was to visit a man-of-war; another was to hide herself in a scholar's study; another was to attend a meeting of business men; while all we to read books, look at pictures, go to concerts, keep our eyes open on the streets, and ask questions perpetually."
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 27 October 2013
How difficult it must be to choose one hundred pieces of short fiction from the huge number and variety of short stories in print, many of them written by very talented authors. Victoria Hislop, however, has done very well to bring together a diverse selection of stories and authors in this beautifully presented doorstep of a book. Naturally Victoria Hislop has included stories from authors renowned for their short stories: Katherine Mansfield (two stories by this very talented writer); Alice Munro (three stories from the Canadian short story writer and winner of the 2009 Booker International Prize); Flannery O'Connor (one story only, but a very good one ['The Life You Save May Be Your Own'] from this unique American author whose collection of short fiction: Complete Stories won the US Best of the National Book Awards in 2009); Helen Simpson (three stories from this British author including 'Sorry' a perceptive and rather sad story of an elderly man whose new hearing aid picks up much more than he bargained for) and only one story from the marvellous American short story writer, Edith Pearlman, whose latest collection Binocular Vision won the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award. Also included are three stories by the Scottish author Elspeth Davie, who, although not as well known as some of the aforementioned, was a writer who found her true potential in the form of the short story, where she was able to combine her distinctive blend of the ordinary and the extraordinary to very good effect. It's also good to see that Mavis Gallant has been included, although there is only one piece from this excellent short story writer.

Then there are those authors who are adept at writing both full-length novels and very good pieces of shorter fiction: the wonderful Penelope Lively (three by this author, my favourite being the amusing 'Corruption' where a judge involved in a pornography trial finds himself and his wife in a very embarrassing situation); Penelope Fitzgerald, Booker Prize Winner (three stories by this marvellous writer including 'The Axe' with its growing sense of unease); Hilary Mantel, another Booker Prize Winner (two stories including the intriguing 'Third Floor Rising', where the young female narrator describes how her mother creates a whole new identity for herself ); the amazing Angela Carter, known for her magical realism (two stories including the wonderfully fantastical tale 'The Bloody Chamber' which had me practically on the edge of my seat); sadly only one story by the incomparable Virginia Woolf ('The Society' in which the character Poll, is left a fortune in her father's will, on condition that she reads all the books in London Library); there are three stories by the marvellous Doris Lessing, and two apiece for Margaret Drabble and Margaret Atwood. I could go on, especially as I have mentioned only a few of the authors and stories appearing in this volume, and there are some that I would have liked to have seen included, which are not (Penelope Gilliatt, for one); however this review is already longer than I intended and hopefully you will now want to get your own copy to see if your favourite authors are included. I will just mention that there were a couple of writers of whom I knew very little about, and having read the stories in this volume, I am now keen to read more. So, on the whole, a diverse and interesting selection and one I would be happy to recommend.

4 Stars.
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on 22 November 2013
Absolutely gorgeous book. I bought it as a pressie but kept it myself and have re-ordered!! Excellent choice of stories and perfect for Christmas.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 August 2013
85p for 100 stories by some outstanding female authors; 800pp is amazing value.

The book is split into three themed sections; love, loss and lives. It's easy to skip forward or back, but one very minor niggle; I'd like an interactive contents at the beginning so I could choose particular authors easily. No compilation will ever please everyone. I've dipped into the book and having read about a quarter, I've enjoyed them all. I've been reintroduced to Muriel Spark, Katherine Mansfield and Doris Lessing. Authors who have, to some extent, fallen out of popular favour. But this book has whetted my appetite for some of their longer works.

There's a brief pen portrait of the author at the start of each story and sufficient variety to suit any mood. I found a couple which made me laugh out loud and one which was so sad, it brought tears to my eyes. I don't intend to comment on which I like best as personal taste differs, but this is a truly diverse and absorbing collection.
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on 24 August 2013
As no-one has reviewed this yet, thought I'd be the first! Brought it for 85p, so my first thought was what's not to like at that price?! And it's true, there are some brilliant stories but there are some surprisingly mediocre ones as well. I haven't finished the book yet so really am reviewing only the 1st third of the book. As Victoria Hislop says in her introduction, it's all a matter of personal preference anyway; what moves one person will leave another going 'Duh?'

The short story can be a thing of polished brilliance. But then again, many of the stories have a beginning, a middle, and then....nothing. It's almost like the author said 'I'm bored with this, let's go and do something else!' And then the reader (well, this reader)feels resentful that they have invested time in getting to grips with another story, another set of characters...

Still, that's my take on it! What will others think? I will go and read something else, and dip into it at intervals, rather like not eating a whole box of chocolates at once!
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on 7 April 2014
Having read other reviews bought this, but so far stories have been weak and not very well written. Have even given up on story before the end, which I never do.
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on 9 September 2014
Interesting mixed bag. Worth reading although many of the short stories would not be my choice. However, it is no bad thing to be exposed to a variety of styles of literature.
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on 16 March 2015
This book took me quite a while to wade through. It would have been ideal for my kindle, but someone bought me the huge hardback version for Christmas, so it was definitely one to read at home. Some of these stories were classics and reallly excellent; some were just quick, entertaining reads, and there were a number I rather disliked - but with such a large number and variety in one place, that was bound to be the case. I particularly enjoyed finding Doris Lessing, many years after reading The Golden Notebook, and Dorothy Parker provided laugh-out-loud moments. There's certainly something for everyone in here, but I doubt many will appreciate them all.
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on 6 November 2013
This is a brilliant book . I first came across it as a hardback . But it was a heavy and large book that put me off buying it . When i discovered it as kindle edition i purchased it. It is a fantastic way to dicover new writers and revisit old friends . You can dip into it when the mood takes you . Only criticism is it would have been nice to have european and asian writers as well
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on 24 April 2014
You simply cannot do justice to the works here, if you try to read too many short stories at one sitting. They all deserve their in this anthology. Pick the book up, lay it aside, even to read something else, and come back to enjoy another new experience. You come to understand the categories suggested in the title. The brief introduction of each author is interesting, too. Comical, sentimental, thrilling, scary.... so much here to savour and explore.
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