The BBC National Short Story Award 2013 – Stories by Lisa Blower, Lavinia Greenlaw, Sarah Hall, Lionel Shriver and Lucy Wood – (2013, Comma Press, Great Britain)
Short stories are my thing right now – I’m finding I’d much rather read a collection of shorts than a novel. I have a ton of admiration for the form, stripped as it is from the luxury of detailed and slow development of character, setting and plot. And my crazy schedule makes it easier for me to gobble down a few stories while on the run.
I read this particular collection while waiting in line (it was a LONG line). All of the stories solidly held my attention, with “Barmouth” an easy standout, a brutish, gut-wrenching study of a dysfunctional family. “Mrs. Fox” (the actual award winner) was another favourite, an elegant and quietly shocking examination of a marriage. But it was the last story, Lucy Wood’s “Notes from the House of Spirits” that really grabbed me – I loved this delicate and gorgeous ghost story so much I read it twice, back to back, and I’d read it again just for all the wonderful little nuances, the repeated phrases, the poetic pauses. If I had known in advance just how brilliant this story is (and the line had been shorter), I would have skipped over all the others.