Best British Short Stories 2013 by Nicholas Royle (editor)

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Best British Short Stories 2013 by Nicholas Royle (editor)

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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Gloria Nneoma Onwuneme
Reviewed by Gloria Nneoma Onwuneme
Summary: Most interesting short stories, carefully chosen by English novelist Nicholas Royle.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: April 2013
Publisher: Salt Publishing
ISBN: 9781907773471

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Expect to read some quality work in Best British Short Stories 2013, sourced from a number of short story magazines; Granta, Shadows and Tall Trees, Unthology and The Edinburgh Review are just some of the publications in which these pieces were to be seen first. If asked to identify a red thread between the components of Nicholas Royle’s anthology, I would say that in each short story, everything is left to simmer under the surface. There is a frustration brought about by the lack of clarity in every short story, which to me is a reflection of just how unclear the most seismic of situations may be to any individual involved.

Starting from the story of a woman running away from her abusive partner, to that of a composer battling disease, and her consequent inability to perform, the voices of new and well-established writers such as Anneliese Mackintosh, Jackie Kay, Laura Del-Rivo and Ross Raisin come through, grappling with the themes of depression, relationships of various types, control, self-delusion, and so forth.

Some of the pieces are allegorical, one notable example being that of dictators of different states, and of different times, all on one boat, drifting into a mist, into obscurity. Others detail more realistic scenarios, such as that of the experience of a woman whose husband’s dementia advances further and further – until he is unable to recognise her.

Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, according to Tolstoy. Judging from the twenty tales with which we are presented, the Anna Karenina principle applies directly to individuals as well; dysfunction of some type is at the heart of each story. A quintessential egghead, a couple of ghosts and a soldier desperate to go for a swim are just some of the characters one would come to know, for the fewest of pages, moving through this collection.

Comedy and tragedy coexist in some of the writings; my personal favourite, The Doctors, makes a statement about just how forcefully life itself may succeed in superseding the pursuit of a PhD, and indeed that of any other endeavour – in desirable and less desirable ways. The fates of protagonists of each individual unit, though different, are summed up pithily by what is said of the main character in Canute: There are some things he cannot control.

This collection, this journey, is easily completed in an afternoon or two. Though some of the short stories were obscure to the point of leaving me wondering what their specific purposes were, all managed to make a serious impact. I trust that you will find that not one story will prove to be an unnecessary inclusion in Royle’s excellent anthology.

Surrounding the theme of love is the short story collection My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead: Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro by Jeffrey Eugenides. If you're looking for something to really sink your teeth into, have a look at Memory, an essay collection on memory compiled by Harriet Harvey Wood.

Buy Best British Short Stories 2013 by Nicholas Royle (editor) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Best British Short Stories 2013 by Nicholas Royle (editor) at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Best British Short Stories 2013 by Nicholas Royle (editor) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Best British Short Stories 2013 by Nicholas Royle (editor) at Amazon.com.

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