Featuring Jeremy Page, Hilary Mantel, Jonathan Buckley, Frances Leviston & Mark Haddon
‘I often ask myself what makes a story work,’ wrote the great The BBC National Short Story Award 2015 American author, Flannery O’Connor. ‘I have decided that it is probably some action, some gesture of a character... which is both totally right and totally unexpected... one that is both in character and beyond character.’
The five stories shortlisted for this year’s BBC National Short Story Award with Book Trust all feature people making just such gestures, acting in ways that reach beyond themselves: a woman takes refuge from a disastrous relationship by caring for a morbidly obese man; parents of a missing girl desperately resort to the services of a woman whose talents they barely credit; a middle-class resident of a leafy corner of Windsor finds herself caught at a crossroads in history; a young man attempts to impress his girlfriend’s unconventional parents – to excruciating, comic effect; and a young woman attempts to stitch together her own approach to life in the face of love. In each case we see an individual endeavouring to stand up, to make a difference, to be part of something bigger.
Now in its tenth year, the BBC National Short Story Award has witnessed a decade of revival for the form, and the stories on this list show just what fine fettle it’s in. The shortlist was selected by crime-writer Ian Rankin, novelist Tash Aw, previous winner Sarah Hall, BBC Books Editor Di Speirs, and former BBC correspondent and journalist Allan Little, who chaired the panel and introduces this collection.