I am a new convert to the short story genre, I always preferred novels – something to get my teeth into. Having been submerged in this genre for the past few weeks, I cannot believe I have denied myself the pleasure of this art form for so long. Admittedly, the stories I have been reading are good, very, very good indeed. Recently I have been reading some short stories by Hilary Mantel. Her writing has me totally seduced, the stories are magical; they twist and turn and bite. Mantel constructs her narrative in such a way that you want to pick up the words and follow them like a trail of breadcrumbs, to find out where they go. Freshly baked breadcrumbs that fill your senses and make you crave more and more.
One fantastic example, is a story called Winter Break. This story was published in The Guardian in 2010, and you can read it here. This story is just under 2000 words. Short and sharp with not a breath wasted. The story is about a couple starting a winter holiday, the other character is an unpleasant taxi, driver who provides the shadow that echoes events in the couple’s lives. The ending of this story is stunning and cruel on the reader. It is like something that I try to pretend I haven’t seen. I want it not to have happened, but it is etched deep in the part of my brain that becomes active at 3.00am.
For someone who has just begun to get into this genre, you really could not get a better introduction. I went on to read many more of Hilary Mantel’s short stories and each time I finish one the word ‘WOW” echoes around my room for several minutes after. Grab a cup of whatever warms you, and go and read Winter Break. You will not be disappointed. Then go and find more of her short stories.