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The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives of Women: 100 Great Short Stories Hardcover – 26 Sep 2013
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'This huge, beautiful book is a treasure chest ... a collection so good, it's essential' The Times.
'A celebration of female writers with contributions from many of our favourites' Good Housekeeping.
'Beautiful ... glittering ... The scope is wide, rich and often unexpected ... it blows Bridget out of the water' Independent.
'[This] has given me more pleasure this year than almost all the rest of my reading put together.' Mariella Frostrup.
'A rich feast.' Nigella Lawson.
About the Author
Victoria Hislop read English at Oxford. Her first novel, THE ISLAND, was Number One for eight consecutive weeks and has sold over two million copies worldwide. Her books have been translated into more than 25 languages.
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Top customer reviews
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.
THE LIVES OF WOMEN:
'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."
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.
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.