Tag Archives: Short Stories

Three Short Story Collections I’ve Read Recently

Treats Lara WilliamsAfter a long period of reading either novels or non-fiction, I have been reading some short story collections recently, possibly a result of my slightly shorter attention span in recent weeks.

I found a copy of Treats by Lara Williams in a charity shop shortly after I read the author’s debut novel Supper Club which was published last summer. This very short collection – 21 stories in just over 100 pages – published in 2016 by the now-defunct Freight Books includes more of the same sharply observed prose about modern life, usually from the point of view of millennial age characters. Consequently, Williams is particularly good on the ways in which reality does not always meet expectations, whether it’s graduate job-hunting, relationships after university or creative writing courses. Her stories written in the second person are also very effective – a tricky perspective to get right. Overall, this is a fresh contemporary collection written by a striking new voice. Continue reading

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The Man Booker International Prize Longlist 2019

The Man Booker International Prize 2019

I’ve been a bit out of the loop with translated fiction in the last few months as non-fiction seems to have taken over my reading recently and I am currently shadowing the Wellcome Book Prize. However, the Man Booker International Prize longlist was announced this week (to be known as the International Booker Prize when the Man Group sponsorship ends this year). The 13 titles are:

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi (Oman), translated from the Arabic by Marilyn Booth
Love in the New Millennium by Can Xue (China), translated from the Chinese by Annelise Finegan
The Years by Annie Ernaux (France), translated from the French by Alison Strayer
At Dusk by Hwang Sok-yong (South Korea), translated from the Korean by Sora Kim-Russell
Jokes for the Gunmen by Mazen Maarouf (Iceland and Palestine), translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright
Four Soldiers by Hubert Mingarelli (France), translated from the French by Sam Taylor
The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann (Germany), translated from the German by Jen Calleja
Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin (Argentina and Italy), translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell
The Faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg (Sweden), translated from the Swedish by Deborah Bragan-Turner
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (Poland), translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
The Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Colombia), translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean
The Death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa (Netherlands), translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett
The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zerán (Chile and Italy), translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes

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Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge Elizabeth StroutI really enjoyed watching the HBO TV mini-series adaptation of ‘Olive Kitteridge’ last year and have been keen to read the original book by Elizabeth Strout which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2009. It is a novel in the form of 13 linked short stories set in the coastal town of Crosby, Maine centred around the life of the eponymous character during late middle age after retiring from her job as a junior high school maths teacher. Her gregarious husband, Richard, is a pharmacist and her son, Christopher, is a podiatrist. However, there are long-standing tensions in the family with Olive seemingly unable to communicate affection towards those closest to her.  Continue reading

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My Most Anticipated Books of 2019

I have an ever-growing list of books I want to read which will be published in 2019, even though it is extremely unlikely I will get round to all of them in the next 12 months and more will inevitably distract me as the year goes on. Here is a selection of some I will be looking out for. All publication dates where known apply to the UK only and may be subject to change.

Spring Ali Smith

Among fiction titles, there are numerous sequels and instalments of series due in 2019. Spring by Ali Smith is the third book in the Scottish author’s seasons cycle following Autumn (2016) and Winter (2017) with Summer presumably following in 2020.

A part of me wonders if The Testaments by Margaret Atwood would ever have been written if the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale hadn’t been so successful. Set 15 years after the original book, the new volume won’t be based on the grim storylines of the second season broadcast last year, but it’s safe to assume that it won’t be a light and cheery read either. Continue reading

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Property by Lionel Shriver and Public Library and Other Stories by Ali Smith

Property Lionel ShriverBy coincidence, I have recently read two collections of short fiction by two of my favourite authors which bring together stories united around specific themes. ‘Property’ is Lionel Shriver’s first collection of short stories which all address the title’s literal definition in relation to real estate and also in a more figurative sense as ownership and possession. Ten shorter pieces many of which have previously been published in magazines are bookended by two novellas ‘The Standing Chandelier’ about the dynamics of Weston Babansky’s 20+ year friendship with Jillian Frisk and her unusual choice of wedding gift when he marries his girlfriend Paige and ‘The Subletter’ written in 1999 about an American journalist living in Belfast during the Troubles who has territorial struggles of her own. Continue reading

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You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld

You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis SittenfeldThe blurb of ‘You Think It, I’ll Say It’ describes the unifying themes of Curtis Sittenfeld’s first collection of short stories as “how even the cleverest people tend to misread others, and how much we all deceive ourselves”. Specifically, the passing of time tends to distort the memories of the protagonists who are often flawed and naive, yet with just enough self-awareness to recognise these traits in themselves. This allows Sittenfeld’s natural gifts for convincing character portraits and satire (especially where class snobbery is concerned) to shine through in this contemporary collection. Continue reading

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My Most Anticipated Books of 2018

Happy new year! Without further ado, here is a selection of 20 upcoming titles I will be looking out for in 2018 (publication dates where known apply to the UK):

Feel Free Zadie SmithAmong non-fiction titles, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari will be out in August as the historian turns his attention to issues in the present day following the success of Sapiens and Homo Deus. I have a particular interest in non-fiction concerning healthcare and medicine and two books I will be looking out for are Shapeshifters: On Medicine and Human Change by Gavin Francis and Brainstorm: Detective Stories from the World of Neurology by Suzanne O’Sullivan. Elsewhere, Feel Free by Zadie Smith is a collection of the celebrated author’s essays on a variety of subjects due in February. Continue reading

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The Lucky Ones by Julianne Pachico

The Lucky Ones Julianne Pachico‘The Lucky Ones’ by Julianne Pachico is described as a novel by its US publishers whereas it has been billed as a collection of interlinked short stories in the UK where it has recently been shortlisted for this year’s Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. I approached ‘The Lucky Ones’ as a collection of short stories when reading it for the shadow panel discussions earlier this month but I think it can be read and enjoyed equally as a novel too, albeit a relatively fragmented one. Continue reading

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Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides

Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides‘Fresh Complaint’ is a collection of 10 short stories by Jeffrey Eugenides. The first and last stories in the collection, ‘Complainers’ and ‘Fresh Complaint’, are new and have never been published before while the rest have appeared in the New Yorker and other magazines over the past three decades or so.

Eugenides’ three novels to date have all been completely different from the dreamy tone of ‘The Virgin Suicides’ to a Greek family saga in 20th century Detroit in ‘Middlesex’ to a love triangle between three recent graduates of a liberal arts college in ‘The Marriage Plot’. In contrast, money, debt and nostalgia appear to be loosely recurring themes in ‘Fresh Complaint’ across a similarly diverse set of scenarios which often focus on characters in some sort of personal crisis. In ‘Early Money’ a musician attempts to hide from the debt collectors tracking him down after he borrowed $27,000 to spend on a clavichord while the title story sees an Indian-American teenage girl plan her escape from the prospect of an arranged marriage which has serious consequences for a visiting British professor she encounters. Continue reading

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Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

Men Without Women Haruki Murakami‘Men Without Women’ by Haruki Murakami is the renowned Japanese author’s first new collection of short stories to be translated into English in over a decade. Echoing Ernest Hemingway’s collection of the same name, the seven tales in this collection are indeed about men experiencing loneliness and isolation without the women who are now absent from their lives for various reasons. The stories have been translated by Ted Goossen and Philip Gabriel who have both worked on many of Murakami’s previous books.
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The Accusation by Bandi

The Accusation BandiTranslated from the Korean by last year’s Man Booker International Prize winner Deborah Smith ‘The Accusation’ by Bandi is a collection of seven short stories by a pseudonymous author who reportedly still lives in North Korea and works as an official writer for the government. Written in the early 1990s at a time when the country was gripped by famine, it is said that Bandi’s stories were eventually smuggled into South Korea by a relative who hid sheets of paper in a copy of ‘The Selected Works of Kim Il-sung’. While there have been many accounts of life in North Korea published by defectors, a work of fiction by an author still living in one of the most secretive countries in the world is exceptionally rare. Continue reading

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Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh

Homesick for Another World Ottessa Moshfegh

Ottessa Moshfegh’s Man Booker Prize-shortlisted Eileen generated a very mixed reaction among readers last year. However, I was one of those who really enjoyed (if that’s the right word) her debut novel and I was intrigued by her new book ‘Homesick for Another World’, a collection of fourteen short stories which will be published this week in the UK. The tales in this collection range from ‘The Beach Boy’ about a middle-aged couple on an unnamed tropical island to ‘Bettering Myself’ from the perspective of an alcoholic maths teacher in a Catholic school to ‘Nothing Ever Happens Here’ in which an aspiring actor in Hollywood falls for his landlady. Continue reading

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New Books Coming Soon in 2017

A new year means new books are coming! Here is a selection of books I will be looking out for which are due to be published in the United Kingdom in 2017:

The Nix Nathan HillThe early months of the year tend to be when lots of debut novels are plugged heavily by publishers. The Nix by Nathan Hill has been a big success in the United States drawing comparisons with everyone from Jeffrey Eugenides to David Foster Wallace and is out this month in the UK. See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt is another high-profile debut due in May billed as a historical murder mystery while Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is the long-awaited first novel from the prolific short story writer and is a fictional re-imagining of events following the death of Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie. Continue reading

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The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel

The Assassination of Margaret ThatcherFollowing the Man Booker Prize-winning ‘Wolf Hall‘ and ‘Bring Up the Bodies‘, the final part of Mantel’s acclaimed trilogy about the life of Thomas Cromwell, ‘The Mirror and the Light’ isn’t due to be published until the end of next year at the very earliest. Presumably brought out to keep Mantel’s fans satisfied in the meantime, ‘The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher’ is a collection of ten short stories, her second collection after ‘Learning to Talk’ was published in 2003. Having read three of Mantel’s novels and her memoir, I was keen to see how her shorter works of fiction compared.
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Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman and The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

The Elephant VanishesBlind Willow Sleeping Woman

Haruki Murakami is one of my favourite authors but after reading all three volumes of ‘1Q84‘ when I finished my degree, I decided to take a break from his writing for a while. Somehow, two years seems to have gone by in a flash and his next novel ‘Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage’ is due to be published in the UK in August. I borrowed Murakami’s collection of short stories about the Kobe earthquake ‘after the quake’ from the library some time ago but I thought I should finally investigate the other two volumes of his short stories that I had yet to read. I recently bought ‘The Elephant Vanishes’ from a charity shop (by recently, I mean about eight months ago) and ‘Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman’ has been on my shelves for some time. Continue reading

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Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

For me, one of the great things about literary awards is discovering the work of authors which might otherwise have passed me by.  The Man Booker Prize longlist, for example, recently brought Jhumpa Lahiri to my attention. After reviewing Unaccustomed Earth‘ just a few weeks ago, I got hold of copies of her first collection of short stories ‘Interpreter of Maladies’ which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 and her first novel ‘The Namesake’ published in 2003.  I am now hoping that Lahiri’s new Booker Prize shortlisted novel ‘The Lowland’ lives up to my increasingly high expectations.
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Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Unaccustomed EarthI am probably not going to have the chance to read Jhumpa Lahiri’s Man Booker Prize longlisted novel ‘The Lowland’ any time soon as it isn’t due to be published in the UK until the end of September so I thought I would try a collection of her short stories instead.  ‘Unaccustomed Earth’ contains eight exquisitely written stories.  The first half of the collection consists of five stand-alone stories while the second half is more of a novella in three parts featuring the same characters, Hema and Kaushik. Continue reading

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The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a collection of short stories so when Lydia Davis won the Man International Booker Prize earlier this year, I decided to investigate her work.   Over the last three weeks or so, I’ve been dipping in and out of this book which brings together four collections of her short stories: ‘Break It Down’ (1986), ‘Almost No Memory’ (1997), ‘Samuel Johnson is Indignant’ (2001) and ‘Varieties of Disturbance’ (2007).  

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First Love, Last Rites by Ian McEwan

Having access to new university libraries means that I occasionally visit the fiction section and borrow books to read on the train while I commute (and when I say occasionally, I really mean pretty much every time I go to the library).  I have read a lot of Ian McEwan’s more recent work but I haven’t been able to get hold of his earlier works until now.  This collection of short stories definitely shows how far McEwan has come since his debut in the mid-1970s with ‘First Love, Last Rites’. Continue reading

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