The Story Love Loss & The Lives of Women 100 Great Short Stories

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Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The Man From Mars by Margaret Atwood from the collection The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives Of Women.

Published November 28, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s The Man From Mars all about?:

The Man From Mars follows a female college student as she deals with the unexpected attention she receives from an insistent male admirer.

What did I think?:

Firstly, I want to let it be known how much respect and love I have for Margaret Atwood as an author, if I haven’t mentioned her already. I have tended to prefer her novels to her shorter fiction (that I’ve read so far) but this isn’t saying much as the only shorter pieces I’ve read from her is the Positron series which, although brilliant on some levels, was incredibly odd in others. The Man From Mars is another example of Margaret Atwood at her best and I loved the way my emotions about this story waxed and waned in different directions and made me think about certain things in a whole new light. However, I have to confess finding myself slightly disappointed about the ending – perhaps I expected more?

Our main female protagonist is Christine, who loves tennis and is described as “big boned,” or athletic. Her parents don’t have too many hopes for her romantically or socially and luckily (for them!) she has two beautiful sisters that have married and had children very successfully. Christine is used to the relationships she has with men. They see her as “one of the guys,” friendly enough and fun to be with but not remotely like a girl they would normally be attracted to. This all changes for Christine one day when she is approached by a foreign male student looking for directions on campus and she stops to assist him. Unfortunately, he takes this opportunity a little too far and becomes obsessed with Christine – following her everywhere, calling her and merely breathing down the phone and even getting himself invited round to tea, insisting that he is her friend. Christine meanwhile is in quite the quandary. She is not remotely drawn to this young man and in fact, finds him quite repulsive with his worn down clothes and incredibly bitten nails. On the other hand though, she has never in her life had this much attention before and she secretly quite likes it, making it quite difficult when the attention is eventually taken away.

This short story elicited so many varied feelings for me! Margaret Atwood is an absolute master at creating an atmosphere within a narrative and in The Man From Mars I shifted constantly from being supremely uncomfortable (and a bit terrified, I have to say!) to feeling slightly scornful of Christine and the way she was dealing with the situation to finally feeling hugely sympathetic towards both parties in their odd little relationship. I think the author was making some very clever statements about how we might view someone or stereotype someone from a different culture and how we shouldn’t be so quick to pass judgement purely based on someone’s behaviour or appearance as there might be quite a valid reason for it being that way that we are unaware of. Sadly, I’m sure I’ve been guilty of this myself in the past, even if it was subconscious and I’ve definitely been the victim of it myself with people who are obviously ignorant and don’t know any better. For these reasons, I really did enjoy this story and the way that I was made to assess my own thoughts and emotions. It was just a bit of a shame that the ending wasn’t quite to my liking, it all felt a bit too abrupt and it would have been nice to get a definitive resolution for both our characters.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: Seeing Double by Sara Maitland from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.

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Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part Five

Published November 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image from: http://www.creativindie.com/how-to-make-money-by-publishing-and-selling-short-stories-and-short-books-on-amazon/

Hello everyone and welcome to the fifth part of my Short Stories Challenge in 2017. My fourth part was quite like the third, up and down. I had a huge disappointment with a short story by Daphne du Maurier which was Monte Verità but I also got some lovely surprises in the form of The House On The Hill by Kate Mosse and The Man In The Ditch by Lisa Tuttle. Here’s what I’ll be reading in the next few months:

Best New Horror by Joe Hill from the collection 20th Century Ghosts.

The Moons Of Jupiter by Alice Munro from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night.

The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew.

Unplugged by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears.

Wisht by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles.

The Man From Mars by Margaret Atwood from the collection The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives Of Women.

Seeing Double by Sara Maitland from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.

The Adventure Of The Beryl Coronet by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.

Freaks: A Rizzoli & Isles Short Story by Tess Gerritsen (stand-alone).

High House by Rosy Thornton from the collection Sandlands.

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Master by Angela Carter from the collection The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives of Women.

Published August 4, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Master all about?:

In Master, a hunter comes to the Amazon rainforest and purchases a female slave to accompany him on his travels and who he can abuse at will.

What did I think?:

I’m really glad that I purchased The Story: Love, Loss and The Lives Of Women for my Kindle. It’s the sort of collection where I’m finding so many fantastic female authors that I’ve either heard of and been meaning to check out or I’ve never come across them before and I’m getting the most insightful experience into their work. It is obvious that Victoria Hislop has chosen each of these authors and stories very carefully and so far, each short work has had something about it that has made me think, made me laugh and (almost!) made me cry. Obviously, Angela Carter is a huge name in women’s fiction, particularly feminist fiction. I’ve already read Nights At The Circus by her in my pre-blogging days and The Bloody Chamber and I was anticipating something whimsical, strong and special from Master which was exactly what I ending up getting.

Master is the story of one of the most despicable young men in literature I’ve had the displeasure to come across. We don’t really learn too much about his early life, apart from some stories of bullying younger students at school and references to his voracious appetite for violence. As an adult though, he discovers a real passion for hunting – not for love of sport but for the glory of the killing, you understand. (Let me just state that I don’t agree with hunting animals on any level so this story was always going to disgust me!). He decides to travel to the Amazon rainforest in search of bigger and better prey being particularly interested in the big cats, namely jaguars. While there he meets a local tribe and purchases one of their female members to be his personal slave as he continues his killing spree travelling through the forest. He treats her abominably with both physical and sexual abuse until she becomes a shadow of what she once was and has the appearance of something else entirely. Well, let me just say, it wouldn’t be an Angela Carter story if the man won at the end of the day, would it?

If you’ve never read any Angela Carter before and enjoy lyrical language, magical narrative properties and nonsensical events you’re in for a treat. This was quite an odd story but I wouldn’t expect anything less from this author. Along with its quirkiness and at times, shocking moments, comes a story filled with intense power and ferocity that kept me on tenterhooks throughout. I have to be honest and say that I don’t think Angela Carter is for everyone but if you’ve never read her before and you’re curious, I would really recommend one of her short stories so that you can get an idea of her inimitable style and flair which is certainly one of a kind. I have Angela Carter’s Book Of Fairy Tales on my shelves and this story has only served to remind me that it simply has to be a future addition to my Short Stories Challenge!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: Possum by Matthew Holness from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Faithful Lovers by Margaret Drabble from the collection The Story: Love Loss & The Lives Of Women

Published March 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s Faithful Lovers all about?:

Faithful Lovers is about a couple who, after promising to never see each other again, meet up by chance in one of the places that they frequented.

What did I think?:

I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read any Margaret Drabble before although I am aware of her writing, in particular The Pure Gold Baby which I have a copy of on my Kindle but haven’t had a chance to get to yet. This is why I’m absolutely loving my short stories challenge, I’m coming across authors either I’ve heard of but haven’t read or complete unknowns and when I read a story such as Faithful Lovers, where the writing is pure class, it makes me so excited to catch up with her other works.

The title Faithful Lovers is quite ironic in a way as the couple, Viola and Kenneth are actually illicit lovers who are married to other people yet embarked on an affair. They tried to end things between themselves many times unsuccessfully but eventually managed to break apart for the sake of their marriages. When we meet Viola, she is walking down a street very familiar to her as it hosts a little cafe that the two used to meet in. She goes into the cafe, feeling incredibly sad and nostalgic and sits at “their” little table, ordering the same thing as she always had back in the day. Lo and behold, who should walk in but Kenneth himself who was coincidentally just passing but lets Viola know that he had been in here many times hoping to see her. The two realise that things never really ended between the two of them and they are still hopelessly in love with each other.

Obviously, I don’t recommend affairs to anybody but this was a touching, beautiful little love story that really had me rooting for both Viola and Kenneth. I warmed to them as characters and respected their decision to stop seeing each other but felt strangely glad that they still both felt the same way about each other, despite the long time they had been apart. I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic at heart (although I don’t admit it very often) but tend to steer away from the more cheesy romantic novels which normally leads to much eye-rolling and cringing, personally speaking! This story however was not cheesy or cringe-inducing in the slightest and it seemed like the world and fate had collided to bring these characters back together. Lovely, heartfelt writing that I thoroughly enjoyed and I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from Margaret Drabble!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: Double Room by Ramsey Campbell from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page

 

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part One

Published January 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

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Its a new year and time for some more short stories. I usually do short stories in three month blocks however I’ve been struggling to keep up with this so instead of calling this post January to March I shall call it Part One and see how I get on! This is what I’ll be reading in the first half of 2017:

The Raft by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

The Butcher Of Meena Creek by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

The Wishing Tree by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Faithful Lovers by Margaret Drabble from the collection The Story: Love Loss & The Lives Of Women

Double Room by Ramsey Campbell from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page

The Adventure Of The Engineer’s Thumb by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Erase Me: Positron, Episode Three – Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

On The Banks Of Table River: (Planet Lucina, Andromeda Galaxy, AD 2319) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

The Passenger by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Fleeing Complexity by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Short Stories Challenge – How I Finally Lost My Heart by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives Of Women

Published June 25, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s How I Finally Lost My Heart all about?:

How I Finally Lost My Heart is a story about a middle-aged woman who reflects on all the loves she has had in her life and recounts a particular experience detailing how she finally came to lose her heart.

What did I think?:

I was very excited to see another story by Doris Lessing in this collection after thoroughly enjoying the brilliant A Man and Two Women but this particular one left me feeling a bit confused, even though I couldn’t deny the beauty of the writing. It’s going to be a bit hard to talk about without quoting huge parts of the story which I don’t really like doing as I think it’s important to discover it all for yourself but I simply have to include the opening lines which really pulled me in, despite what I thought about the story as a whole:

“It would be easy to say that I picked up a knife, slit open my side, took my heart out, and threw it away, but unfortunately it wasn’t as easy as that. Not that I, like everyone else, had not often wanted to do it. No, it happened differently, and not as I expected.”

With that opening, how could you NOT read on? This is a first person narrative where the woman talking to us, speaks as she would do if there was no-one around to observe her and you can clearly tell from the start that her mind is quite a confused, disjointed space at this moment in her life. She is recounting to the reader the greatest loves of her life of which there have been only two, neither of these have been her husbands or the many affairs that she reports she has had. It seems that with both of these “serious loves,” the relationships ended badly and as a result, our anonymous narrator feels that her heart has become a stone that she carries around with her and is desperate to be rid of. How she finally gets rid of this stone is told to the reader in a bizarre fantasy sequence where she seems to exit her body and view her misery as if it is happening to someone else before she eventually gets a bit of closure.

It’s quite hard to describe and I don’t really want to ruin the story for anybody who is intrigued or Lessing fans who haven’t previously read it so I’ll leave the synopsis there. Personally, I don’t think I enjoyed this as much as A Man And Two Women and it left me in quite a confused, fragile mindset myself where I had to go back to the beginning and read it another couple of times before I accepted what was going on. Saying that, it was an exceptional piece of writing with some very vivid imagery and emotional anguish that affected me at times very deeply. I also appreciate a story that challenges me in this way and it definitely hasn’t put me off reading more Doris Lessing in the future. Have you read it? I’d love to know what you think!

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Graveless Doll Of Eric Mutis by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Short Stories Challenge 2016 – January to March

Published January 9, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Image from http://quotes.lifehack.org/quote/ali-smith/short-stories-consume-you-faster-theyre-connected/

Hooray for a new year and more short stories! This is what I’ll be reading for the first three months of 2016.

Week beginning 4th January 2016

Duet by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 11th January 2016

The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer by John Ajvide Lindqvist from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 18th January 2016

Dreams In The Witch-House by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 25th January 2016

Enough Of This Shit Already by Tony Black from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 1st February 2016

Stars Of Motown Shining Bright by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 8th February 2016

Charm For A Friend With A Lump by Helen Simpson from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Week beginning 15th February 2016

Paranoid: A Chant by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Week beginning 22nd February 2016

Still Life by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Week beginning 29th February 2016

Notes From The House Spirits by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 7th March 2016

How I Finally Lost My Heart by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives Of Women

Week beginning 14th March 2016

The Graveless Doll Of Eric Mutis by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 21st March 2016

The Adventure Of The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 28th March 2016

Choke Collar: Positron, Episode Two by Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)