Although this is officially the December 2019 and January 2020 round up, I decided as I was taking on the position of Short Stories Round Up editor to take a deep dive into the reviews over 2019. Wow – we have some truly fanatic reviewers out there. Bad news for my tbr pile and bank balance.
The short story statistics for 2019 are:
79 reviews of 62 books by 68 authors
The most prolific reviewers were:
Cass Moriarty (9) via Goodreads
Sharon Hill (8) via Goodreads
Ashleigh Meikle, The Book Muse (7)
Helen Sibbritt (4) and Jennifer Cameron-Smith (4) both via Goodreads, and Dark Matter Zine (4)
A Constant Hum by Alice Bishop and My Name is Revenge by Ashley Kalagian Blunt share third place with 3 reviews a piece.
As with 2018, both Text and UQP had the most titles reviewed in 2019, which I think demonstrates both publishers continuing commitment to getting Australian stories out there.
Although one of the busier times of the year (ahem understatement), December and January are the perfect time to take on a short story collection as a reader can dip in and out and feel like they’ve accomplished a small reading goal by finishing a short story. I did just that with the debut collection Well Behaved Women by Perth writer Emily Paul and I hope to see some more reviews of her collection in the upcoming months.
Let’s move onto the December 2019 and January 2020 round up.
The first review I read in my capacity as new Short Story Round up editor was this thoughtful and astute review of This Taste for Silence by Amanda O’Callaghan from Whispering Gums, I really enjoyed this review – what a high bar to set! Shortlisted for the 2019 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction, Whispering Gums says the collection is ‘a compelling but provocative book that forces us to confront the silences in our lives, to consider them from multiple perspectives and ask whether they work for ill or good.’ She praises O’Callaghan’s ‘skilled command over narrative’ and is impressed by the variety of characters and situation the writer presents to the reader to explore the theme. I suggest you read the entire review here
I always enjoy Cass Moriarity’s reviews and this round-up she has several for us. First is New Australian Fiction 2019 edited by Rebecca Starford. In this review she says ‘It was an absolute joy to read to read samples of stories from some of the best current writers.’ Cass says ‘This brilliant selection is an outstanding collection of the creativity of our writers in the world of fiction.’ She picks out a few of her favourites including Julie Koh with Workers of All Lands Unite, A Trick of the Light by Andrea Gillum,This Version of Her by Allee Richards and Something Close to Gold by Laura Elvery. Cass also reviews Issue 236 and 237 of quarterly literary journal Overland saying ‘like any good box of chocolates, each issue is a great tasting sampler of the work currently being created.’
Originally published in 2014, Theresa Smith reviews the new edition of Springtime – A Ghost Story by Michelle de Kretser She says de Kretser’s novella ‘manages to convey so much about Australian society through this sharply delivered, witty, and observational tone.’ Theresa says this is a great introduction to de Kretser. ‘If you are looking for an amusing and though provoking nibble of a read, then this the ideal book for you.’
Still garnering reviews into 2020 is Zebra: And Other Stories by Debra Adelaide. Marianne’s Reviews says of the work that ‘many of the stories are good, some are a little vague, one or two are outstanding.’ A clear standout for her was the title novella, ‘Zebra’, featuring a peony-loving PM, a nasty neighbour and a zebra. ‘This one is truly excellent and the book is worth acquiring for that story alone. Exceptional Aussie fiction.’
A Constant Hum by Alice Bishop is a collection that, given the bush fires currently devastating much of our country, remains timely and relevant. Alicia’s Reviews comments ‘Reading these stories as bushfires razed multiple states, lives and homes were lost, and the sky changed with the increasing smoke added an extra layer of poignancy to this already sobering and sensitive collection of stories.’ She notes how the ‘longer and short, flash pieces meld together to form a heightened reading experience.’
In her review of The High Places by Fiona McFarlane, Nancy gives us a point by point breakdown of some of the individual short stories, highlighting aspects of the stories she found strong, and those she felt were weaker. She thoroughly enjoyed the book and had her top five stories include the shortest story in the collection, Man and Bird, which ‘packs a punch.’
Here’s something for the Pride and Prejudice fans out there, two short stories reviewed by Sharon Hill. Sharon says she enjoyed both Lizzy’s Decision and Mark My Words, both A ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Variation Vignette, by Margaret Lynette Sharpe. Sharon said ‘I find her style of writing a pleasure to read and look forward to reading more by this author.’
Short story collections that have piqued my interest through reading these 2019/2020 reviews include A Constant Hum by Alice Bishop, Portable Curiosities by Julie Koah, Pulse Points by Jennifer Down and This Taste for Silence by Amanda O’Callaghan.
Other 2020 releases to watch out for include Ordinary Matter by Brisbane writer Laura Elvery, inspired by the 20 times women have won Nobel Prizes for science, Elizabeth Tan’s Smart Ovens for Lonely People and Dreams and They Forgot by Emma Ashmere. And for those readers who loved Kate Forsyth’s Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women – of which there are many – Publishers Serenity Press have announced an audio version of the book narrated by Kate herself. After watching Kate read stories from the collection as the Perth Writers’ Festival last year anyone who chooses to listen to this is in for a real treat.
I hope you enjoyed reading my first round up. After this I think one of my biggest tasks this year is to decide which short story collection I select for my book club, Read Harder. With so many amazing short story collections coming from Australian Women writers this decision will not be easy! Wish me luck!
About Me Writer, reader, tea (and champagne) drinker, bibliophile, booknerd.