Summary and book reviews of The Little Black Book of Stories by A.S. Byatt

The Little Black Book of Stories

By A.S. Byatt

The Little Black Book of Stories
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2004,
    240 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2005,
    256 pages.

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Book Summary

The Booker Prize-winning author of Possession and A Whistling Woman is at her best in this dazzling collection of five new tales.

Little Black Book of Stories
offers shivers along with magical thrills. Leaves rustle underfoot in a dark wood: two middle-aged women walk into a forest, as they did when they were girls, confronting their childhood fears and memories and the strange thing they saw–or thought they saw–so long ago. A distinguished male obstetrician and a young woman artist meet in a hospital, but they have very different ideas about body parts, birth, and death. A man meets the ghost of his living wife; a woman turns to stone. And an innocent member of an evening creative writing class turns out to have her own decided views on the best way to use "raw material."

These unforgettable stories are by turns haunting, funny, sparkling, and scary. Byatt’s Little Black Book adds a deliciously dark note to her skill in mixing folk and fairy tales with everyday life.

Excerpt
The Little Black Book of Stories

There were once two little girls who saw, or believed they saw, a thing in a forest. The two little girls were evacuees, who had been sent away from the city by train, with a large number of other children. They all had their names attached to their coats with safety-pins, and they carried little bags or satchels, and the regulation gas-mask. They wore knitted scarves and bonnets or caps, and many had knitted gloves attached to long tapes which ran along their sleeves, inside their coats, and over their shoulders and out, so that they could leave their ten woollen fingers dangling, like a spare pair of hands, like a scarecrow. They all had bare legs and scuffed shoes and wrinkled socks. Most had wounds on their knees in varying stages of freshness and scabbiness. They were at the age when children fall often and their knees were unprotected. With their suitcases, some of which were almost too big to carry, and their other impedimenta, a doll, ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Having finished this collection of short stories it wasn't clear whether or not to recommend them at BookBrowse - but two to three weeks later they have passed one important test - despite having read quite a number of books since, these mildly sinister short stories are still playing in my mind.  

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

From secret agonies to improper desires and the unthinkable, this slyly titled collection touches on more than a little bit of darkness...With an accomplished balance of quotidian detail and eloquent flights of imagination, Byatt has crafted a powerful new collection.

Library Journal - Barbara Hoffert

The prose is arresting and memorable, the images linger, getting under your skin. But as a whole these stories are also a little cold-eyed and merciless. They are indeed black, and some readers might even call them sour. For all literary collections, given Byatt's reputation, though this won't pull in as many readers as Possession.

Kirkus Reviews

With painstaking precision, Booker-winner Byatt (A Whistling Woman, 2002, etc.) analyzes the frailty, impermanence, and disturbing complexity of the human body....Byatt has never written better than in these exquisite stories that, together and thus arranged, assume the shape of a life from childhood through old age and death. A stunning, altogether irresistible collection.

Booklist - Donna Seaman

Byatt is commanding. Her prose is crisp and astringent. Her insights are lacerating, her approach sly, her visions searing, her wit honed, and her imagination peripatetic and larcenous, feasting on art, myth, fairy tales, and science.

The New York Times - Claire Messud

Byatt has the sheer narrative skill to raise the hairs on the back of your neck and make your pulse race. In this fine and memorable collection, she attains a near perfect balance between low and high, body and mind, the Thing and its significance.

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