Putting together a collection like this feels like it would be pretty overwhelming. It’s just the sheer number of lit mags, prize anthologies and new collections published every year, and trying to filter out only British writers within them. I wouldn’t know where to start. Actually, I’d probably make an attempt, and then be found buried under a giant fallen tower of stories long after my publishing deadline had passed.
A different editor would likely end up with a slightly different list, deciding the ‘best’ stories, after all, can only be subjective, but I like what Royle has settled on.
The stories as a whole have a thread of darkness running through them – which I love. Most of the stories are about struggle of some kind, of the strange and the difficulty of the everyday. In these stories there’s always something simmering just below the surface. Sometimes it’s about the characters hiding this from those around them or themselves, other times it’s about how they don’t even notice.
There are a wide range of styles and levels of abstraction included, so, as in most collections, there are stories you will click with and others you won’t. One of the things I like the most about these sorts of anthologies is that there’s always a good mix of writers – a few I’ve heard of but mostly ones I’ve never read. I like the discovery of authors new to me to explore and look out for in the future – a way of sifting through all the writing out there.
I tried to pick out a couple of favourite stories but I couldn’t, in a good way. I liked different stories for different reasons and there were only a couple that I wasn’t that fussed about. An excellent collection to spend some time with.
I kindly received a free review copy from Salt Publishing in exchange for an honest review.