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

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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):

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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)

Short Stories Challenge – A Man And Two Women by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives of Women edited by Victoria Hislop

Published November 24, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s A Man and Two Women all about?:

A Man and Two Women tells the story of two married couples who are also great friends although the arrival of a baby on one side tips relationships and the friendship between the four to potential breaking point.

What did I think?:

I was delighted when I discovered that this short story collection, edited by Victoria Hislop had stories by Doris Lessing within. I’ve heard a lot about the author – awarded the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime’s achievement in British Literature, ranked fifth on The Times list of the “50 Greatest British Writers Since 1945,” and a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2007 to cap it all off. I have one of her best loved novels The Golden Notebook on my Kindle with no idea when I was going to get round to reading it so this story came just at the right time to give me a bit of an introduction to her work. Now I’m so glad that I have read something of hers, this story was engaging, beautifully written with the most perfect of endings and it has definitely inspired me to pick up The Golden Notebook a bit sooner then I perhaps would have.

The main focus of this narrative is a woman called Stella whom, along with her husband Philip have become very close friends with another couple, Dorothy and Jack Bradford. Both Dorothy and Jack are artists and Stella can identify with them both being an artist herself so when Philip is away at work for extended periods of time (which happens quite often due to him being a journalist) she takes the opportunity to meet up with her friends, revelling in the joy that both the couples have strong, loving relationships.

However, since Stella last visited, Dorothy and Jack have had a baby and as Jack meets her at the station, she can immediately sense something is amiss although Jack’s character will not allow him to admit this openly. On seeing Dorothy again she is surprised by how much her friend has changed. She is obviously in complete awe and adoration of her son and we get the sense that Jack has taken somewhat of a back seat in her affections, either consciously or sub-consciously. She is then more confused when Dorothy begins talking about infidelity – whether she thinks that Philip is unfaithful to her when he is away on business which upsets Stella greatly and confiding in her that Jack admitted he was unfaithful fairly recently. It isn’t his infidelity that bothers Dorothy though, it is the fact that she isn’t bothered in the slightest!

The author really mixes things up with what Dorothy goes on to suggest. Although the idea isn’t particularly repugnant to any of them it has Stella questioning anything and everything about her friends’ relationship which she thought she knew so well and, more importantly, her own feelings and desires. Stella’s own morals and strength of character are tested to the limits but perhaps it is only when put in a situation like this do things become infinitely clearer.

This short story is extremely readable and a great introduction I think for someone like me who had never read any of Doris Lessing’s work before. She clearly has a talent for hooking the reader quite quickly and making them intrigued and interested enough in the characters to want to read to the end, just to find out what the outcome would be. It is a brilliant observation of human relationships, friendships, infidelity, the longevity of marriage, sexual desire and temptation. I also loved the statement that I believe the author was making in that having a child does not make a woman lose her identity, her desires or make her less desirable to others. The next time this collection rolls round it will be another short story by Doris Lessing and I really can’t wait now to read more of her work.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: The New Veterans by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

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Doris Lessing at the Lit Cologne literary festival in 2006 (photograph from Wikipedia)

 

Short Stories Challenge 2015 – October to December

Published October 2, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Image from http://www.slideshare.net/ernella32/teaching-the-short-story

It’s nearly the end of the year and here’s what I’ll be reading short story wise to see out 2015!

Week beginning 5th October

Corrugated Dreaming by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Week beginning 12th October

Beachcombing by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 19th October

A Man And Two Women by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives of Women edited by Victoria Hislop

Week beginning 26th October

The New Veterans by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 2nd November

The Adventure Of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 9th November

Vuotjärvi by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

Week beginning 16th November

Bibhutibhushan Malik’s Final Storyboard by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 23rd November

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

Week beginning 30th November

We Were Just Driving Around by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 7th December

The Chamois by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 14th December

Under The Pylon by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 21st December

A Mighty Horde Of Women In Very Big Hats, Advancing by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 28th December

The Mean Time by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Short Stories Challenge – A Telephone Call by Dorothy Parker from the collection The Story: Love, Loss and The Lives of Women, 100 Great Stories

Published July 20, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s A Telephone Call all about?:

A woman over-obsesses about a telephone call she is waiting for from a man she is seeing to the point where she seems to lose her senses.

What did I think?:

A Telephone Call is the first story in this collection of short stories written by women and edited by Victoria Hislop. Prior to the story beginning we are given a short and snappy biography about the author which I really appreciated as a reader. Dorothy Parker was born in 1893 in New Jersey, America and was best known as a critic, satirist, poet and of course, short story writer. In general, I thought this was a brilliant little tale which was perfectly organised and original in style.

It is written from the point of view of an unnamed female narrator who is awaiting a telephone call from a man who is, so far, two hours late in calling. Now I think probably every female has probably been in this situation (perhaps to a milder extent) as we eagerly anticipate a phone call in the first flushes of love. For this particular woman it becomes an almost dangerous obsession where she runs the risk of serious psychological damage as she goes through a variety of emotions including despair, anger and hope as she tries to convince herself there is a valid reason why he has not phoned when he said he would.

The reader is swept into our narrator’s inner monologue which is actually a conversation with God where she pleads with him to make her lover call and continually questions her own emotions. This leads to a disastrous conflict as the turmoil in her mind threatens to make her crazy, instigates obsessive compulsive behaviours such as believing the phone will ring if she counts to five hundred first and provokes outbursts like the following:

“Why can’t that telephone ring? Why can’t it, why can’t it? Couldn’t you ring? Ah, please, couldn’t you? You damned, ugly, shiny thing. It would hurt you to ring, wouldn’t it? Oh, that would hurt you. Damn you, I’ll pull your filthy roots out of the wall, I’ll smash your smug black face in little bits. Damn you to hell.”

This is a perfect example of the twisting and turning of our characters emotions which leads ultimately to anger until the cycle begins again. The poor woman appears to be in a Catch 22 situation where she feels that she cannot ring her lover herself as it is not what society expects of her or is what men want/find attractive but is in danger of going mad if she does not phone. At one point, she even wishes her lover dead as perhaps that would be a better outcome than admitting to herself that he does not love her like she loves him. By the end of the story, she seems to find herself in an endless loop as she once again begins to count to five hundred by which time she is sure that the phone will have rung.

I was immediately drawn into this fantastically conceived story although at times it made uncomfortable reading. It seemed like a very private insight into one woman’s thoughts and beliefs and I felt like a trespasser or voyeur reading about her intense discomfort. I would have loved to know if the telephone had eventually rung but in my own warped imagination I feel that sadly it would have not. I think the author is also making a powerful statement about women’s place in the world and, possibly, the difference in our emotional states when compared with men. I’ll definitely be checking out some more of this author’s work, many thanks to Victoria Hislop for bringing her fiction to my attention!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules For Antarctic Tailgating by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove