“Little Black Book of Stories” contains five short stories with dark, Gothic tentacles that coil around the reader’s mind. I love the mixture of fairy tale and realism in the stories that lead rationalism astray. The tales in “Little Black Book of Stories” are written for different occasions, but have enough commonalities to flatter each other in the collection.
My favorites were Body Art and A Stone Woman, followed by The Pink Ribbon. The Thing in the Forest did not hit home in my opinion. I will not give you a resume of the individual stories, but leave you to experience them on your own.
Bodies play an important role in most of the stories. In Body Art there is Daisy, the emaciated art student and maker of a grotesque piece of art using body parts in formaldehyde and prosthetics. In A Stone Woman, the protagonist turns to stone, a process she and a stone mason follow closely. In Raw Material a creative writing student ends up naked and terribly bruised on the floor. In The Pink Ribbon, old age and illness get the better of the protagonist and his wife – especially her mental state.
I also see a theme of young and old. The reader meets the characters Penny and Primrose in The Thing in the Forest as children and elderly women. The protagonist in The Pink Ribbon meets the ghost of his wife’s former self. A. S. Byatt uses flashbacks to round her characters and show their development.
Having read “Little Black Book of Stories“, I am looking forward to reading more from A. S. Byatt’s hand. I would recommend this collection to reader, who enjoys Gothic tales, magical realism, and exquisite written fiction.