Books of short stories, it turns out, are great for times when you cannot concentrate on a full novel. Nerys (pictured below) arrived on the scene on the 12th of April, a contradiction of teeth and cuddles, and so my attention has been somewhat divided. Short stories, I thought. This is where to go!
My wonderful friend Alice Slater, who runs the fabulous Short Story Salon at Waterstones Gower Street, confirmed this idea a solid one, as she often recommends them to new parents. My child may be furrier than average but her attention needs are quite up there.
Anyway, onto the book.
This stunning collection of short stories is the brainchild of Sceptre, a literary and non fiction imprint of Hodder and Staughton. Not your typical collection about romance, How Much a Heart Can Hold features a single story for each of the seven types of love – la douleur exquisite, eros, agape, pragma, philautia, mania and storge.
The paperback edition, due out in August, also features an eighth story by Phoebe Roy about love changing over the seasons. A long time fan of Phoebe’s tweets and writing, I’m very much looking forward to this addition.
The collection boasts an impressive array of artists.
Rowan Hisayo Buchanon‘s take on la douleur exquisite (the sweet pain of unrequited or unreturned love) Before It Disappears follows Joy, an anorexic woman who refuses to eat and the husband who desperately wants to save her. This story is visceral and reminiscent of The Vegetarian by Han Kang.
One More Thing Coming Undone is a great story of first, burning loves you cannot forget by D.W. Wilson – tactile, melancholy and rich in Canadian life.
This is followed by a great short story White Wine about siblings battling racism and microaggressions after their mother’s death by Nikesh Shukla. I’m already a big fan of Nikesh’s work, though I am yet to explore any of his novels – a treat for later this year.
Donal Ryan explores complex mental health problems and obsession in Magdalena, Who Slips Sometimes. This is a furious, messy story that rips through the pages.
Codas by Carys Bray, covering familial love, is one of my favourites of the collection. Louise struggles to balance her roles of daughter and mother when her father has an accident at a football game. A gentle, lovely family tale.
The Love Story by Grace McCleen follows a young girl dealing with the beginnings of understanding romance and desire as concepts, but struggles to align them with her parents.
Bernadine Evaristo closes the collection with her take on love for humanity, writing as God. It truly is an impassioned essay about the cruelties of the world as much as a piece of fictional writing.
This is a really interesting collection
What to read next:
- An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk by Those Who Saw It by Jessie Greengrass
- The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
- Trash by Dorothy Allison
Thank you kindly to Sceptre for sharing the copy with me.
The following stories require trigger warnings:
- Before It Disappears: anorexia, eating disorders, self harm.
- The Human World: sexual abuse, child sexual abuse, references to suicide.