I may only have read around half of this year’s Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology which arrived last week, but have decided this needn’t stop me posting a few reflections on what I’ve seen so far.
My first observation is this is a collection which is easily digestible in a way I find short story collections usually are not. This could be something to do with my own state of mind (summer holidays and visitors shortening my attention span?) but I’m also sure it’s to do with the diversity of the writing styles and subject matter. For once I can read two or three at a sitting without succumbing to that death-by-chocolate feeling that too many short stories at one go usually bring on.
Something else that pleases me is that while short stories are typically (dare I say that?) intimate in nature and frequently domestic in their settings (including in this case the three ‘placed’ winners) many of these think nothing of crossing all kinds of boundaries – geographical or conceptual.
On the conceptual side I have to doff my cap to ‘Bitter Gourd Fruit’ while admitting it was pretty much lost on me, but those I particularly like are ‘Wine for Breakfast’ where Claire King’s domestic drama brings home the horror of Chernobyl, and Jon Pinnock’s engaging ‘rZr v Napoleon’ which moves from a corporate boardroom to Third World aid. Both of these, because of a fresh approach and interesting settings, will I think stand the test of being remembered for quite some time. But best of all for me is ‘The Meek Inherit’ by Nastasya Parker – maybe not the catchiest title, but a truly powerful evocation of life in Haiti before and after the earthquake when a girl is forced to make choices at the age of five harder than any most of us will have to face in our lives.
This one bowled me over. Good news. I still have eight to read!