Published by Sceptre
Publication date – 3 Novemeber 2016
Source – review copy
‘Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.’
Love is not a singular concept.
In this collection, seven award-winning authors explore seven concepts of love: from Philautia, self-love, to Agape, love for humanity; and from Storge, a natural affection for family, to Mania, a frenzied, obsessive love.
Seven authors; seven short stories; seven flashes of love.
Seven stories about seven forms of love. Can there be that many really? Well yes as How Much the Heart Can Hold shows. Each of the stories in this collection focus on a different form of love: La Douleur Exquise – the exquisite pain of unrequited love; Pragma – a longstanding love; Philautia – self love, which can either be narcissism or a noble understanding of the self; Mania – a love that is without rational thinking; Storge- familial love; Eros – romantic love or desire and Agape – unconditional, altruistic love.
This collection takes the concept of love and turns it on it’s head. These are not traditional love stories for they are not inspired by the traditional concept of love. As you read some, the love that is the inspiration to the story is obvious, with others it is more subtle, emerging from the story sometimes after it has long since been read.
As with any collection there were stories I enjoyed more than others. The ones that standout for me are Codas by Carys Bray, White Wine by Nikesh Shukla and the final story, The Human World by Bernadine Evaristo.
Codas is a moving tale of familial love, in more than one respect and one in which many readers may see reflections of their own lives. White Wine is a story of self love but not of the narcissistic type. In it we see the internal battle to love who we are, that attempts to change our core to pleases others is often futile, that the issue is the other person’s alone and that this realisation is about finally loving ourselves. The Human World is based on altruistic love, of its futility and it’s reward and is thought-provoking in its concept.
All of the stories have the ability to effect the reader. Love is, after all, one of the ruling emotions for humans. The stories are moving, thought provoking, familiar and also unknown.
A varied, interesting, contemplative collection, with an unusual but effective theme.
(The paperback edition also features the winning story from the SceptreLoves short story Prize.)
About the authors
Bernardine Evaristo is the award-winning author of seven books, including her most recent novel, Mr Loverman (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin-Random House, 2013).
Carys Bray is the author of a collection of short stories, Sweet Home, and two novels, A Song for Issy Bradley, which was shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards, and The Museum of You.
D. W. Wilson is a short story writer, novelist, Canadian citizen by birth and temperament, video game nerd, teacher, and redneck – among other things. He is currently between books, but his previous works are a short story collection, Once You Break a Knuckle, and Ballistics, a novel.
Donal Ryan was born in Tipperary in 1976; he’s a novelist, short-story writer and Fellow of the University of Limerick.
Grace McCleen studied English Literature at Oxford and York Universities. She has written three critically acclaimed novels and reviews fiction for national newspapers.
Nikesh Shukla is the author of Coconut Unlimited, Meatspace and The Time Machine, the editor of the collection The Good Immigrant and a sitcom writer.
Rowan Hisayo Buchanan is the author of the novel Harmless Like You, and her short work has appeared in, among other places, the Harvard Review, TriQuarterly, and NPR’s Selected Shorts.