Tuesday 19 December 2023

Review by Kim Wiltshire of "Best British Short Stories 2023" ed. Nicholas Royle

In this form since 2011, Best British Short Stories 2023 is the thirteenth volume and yet again delivers an anthology that includes a range of styles and subjects to suit any reader. This is the joy of the short story collection or anthology, there is always a completely different tale awaiting you a few pages on, a different world to explore and new characters to meet. 

This edition includes work from twenty different writers from across Britain, telling a range of stories from the lyrical (A K Blakemore’s ‘Bonsoir’) to the dark and weirdly dystopian (Gareth E Rees’ ‘The Slime Factory’) alongside the more character-based literary stories, ranging from the quite short, for example Lydia Gill’s ‘The Lowing’ at only four pages, through to the longer short story, such as the final one in the collection ‘Tinhead’ by Gabriel Flynn.

The collection is thoughtfully curated by Royle, a task which is always difficult, but when you’re presenting ‘the best’ stories then the journey the editor takes the reader on has to ensure there are no bumps or potholes in the road, although a sharp turn now and then can be quite exhilarating. Royle does a grand job as editor here, juxtaposing the stories that lean towards magic realism with the more down to earth, life-lived-as-it-is type of story. It has been carefully thought through for the reader, which in turn showcases the talent of all the writers in the best possible way. Yes, I had my favourites, but they will be completely different to your favourites, which in turn will be different again to the next person’s. There are clear themes that run through the collection: concerns about the world we live in, and where it is heading, alongside the loneliness of life for so many. Some stories make you laugh out loud, other make you think, and one did bring a tear to my eye. 

Royle’s introduction is also a journey through the short story alphabet with many good tips for those writers starting out in the genre. I’ve always enjoyed reading these yearly collections, and this (lucky?) thirteenth is no different - I hope they continue for many years more.

About the reviewer
Dr Kim Wiltshire is a playwright and writer whose research involves theatre/writing for social change and arts for health. She is a British Academy Innovation Fellow and is a Reader and Programme Leader for Creative Writing at Edge Hill University. 

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