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Little Black Book of Stories

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,988 Ratings  ·  238 Reviews
A new collection of Byatt stories is always a winner and never fails to delight. This one takes an unexpected turn, bringing shivers as well as magical thrills.

The Little Black Book holds its secrets, and they will linger in your mind forever. Leaves rustle underfoot in a dark wood: two middle-aged women walk into a forest, as they did when they were girls, confronting the
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Hardcover, 256 pages
Published April 20th 2004 by Knopf (first published 2003)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Rowena
One of the reasons I adored this short story collection was Byatt's ability to describe things so well. Her descriptions of nature and colour were especially wonderful. I think it's safe to say I have never read any short stories quite like these, they were all unusual and came with twists. My favourite story was "Stone Woman" in which a woman finds herself turning to stone. As a geology-lover, her descriptions of the different rock formations and minerals resonated with me and I had to read tha ...more
Zanna
Why black? Because black absorbs and radiates? Because the subjects are full of pain? Because the black book contains our connections? Because the dark is where we paint our fears and hopes?

I am cursed with this line-seeking mind. I abandoned Ariadne. Why will this story not lie flat and hand me the thread? Literature, why do you merely intrigue me, draw me deeper, without ever solving the labyrinth?

When I read Byatt I argue with my inexplicable sense that this is the only literature: be calm ch
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Deea
Apr 11, 2016 Deea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Thing in the Forest ****
Body Art ***** (lovely)
A Stone Woman ***** (exquisite)
Raw Material ***
The Pink Ribbon ****

ONCE UPON A TIME there was magic immersed in real life. Magic! And magic was palpable…just like in fairy tales and people believed in it. When exactly in the evolution of humanity did we lose the ability to believe in what we could not see? When did we forget that there are things which cannot be explained by science, that our world is not only populated by visible beings, but al
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Eh?Eh!
From what others have said, Byatt has the sort of background where I know I'm missing quite a bit when I read anything she writes, not even catching a stray ripple. That first story, whuh? Even the other four, where I caught my breath or found myself with a sore back from unconsciously hunching as I became enrapt with the stories, I wonder what I'm missing. Still, those four, thumbs up. My take on them may be the obvious take, but they dance on my mind. Loss and parenthood, grief and geology (li ...more
Bandit
Jun 30, 2016 Bandit rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Second time trying Byatt, looks like this time her stories fared marginally nicer, but still...something about her writing just doesn't sing for me. I was able to appreciate it more now, see the beauty of it, but these modern fairy tales (with exception of the first one maybe) lacked the magic and fun and all those other fairy tale prerequisites that make them so delightful. Quick read, but unengaging and unmemorable. Probably an acquired taste sort of thing, judging by the author's popularity.
Connie (Ava Catherine)
I love Byatt's ability to take a simple idea and create a lovely story with a strong theme.

In "The Thing" she uses echoes of Hansel and Gretel with a modern twist. We are reminded that the wounds of our childhoods scar and shape us for the rest of our lives. Each person has to figure out how to cope with her Thing from the forest in order to survive. Setting this story in WWII is a stroke of genius. The children being evacuated from London during the war are vulnerable before they go into the f
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Sharon
May 03, 2009 Sharon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Having heard good things about A.S. Byatt's mastery of the short story, I was anxious to read this book. Unfortunately, I found myself disappointed.

Byatt certainly knows how to begin a story. The first offering in this collection is "The Thing in the Forest" and it begins, simply and intriguingly, with this sentence: "There were once two little girls who saw, or believed they saw, a thing in the forest." Note the deliberate phrasing here with the word 'believed'. It is pivotal to the whole stor
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Gearóid
Sep 29, 2013 Gearóid rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow!
Incredibly good stories.
Each story was so different and each story felt like a novel.
They were so complete and beautifully written.
You can see A.S Byatt really loves words......
pyrolusite,ignimbrite,omphacite,uvarovite,glaucophane,schist,shale,gneiss,tuff.
Sounds so cool!
"A Stone Woman" really stands out to me as an exceptional short story.
But all the stories are awesome in different ways.
Another 5 star's.

Littleflamy
Sono pochi i libri che ho voglia di rileggere interamente. Questo l'ho riletto. Penso sia una delle raccolte di racconti più attraenti che abbia letto negli ultimi tempi. Devo assolutamente recuperare tutto quello che ha scritto!
Ashley
I first discovered A.S. Byatt's work a few years ago when I picked up this book, quite honestly because the cover was pretty. This little volume hooked me into her style right away, and I've devoured all of her other works since.
Her short stories have a quality that is so unique - many of them are set in the real world that we know, but have that one element of fantasy, mystery, or horror that tips them over the edge and makes for fascinating writing. "A Stone Woman" is my favorite in this colle
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Imogen
Mar 20, 2007 Imogen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: book people
I love the way that she writes- it's restrained and beautiful. I also love the way she twists stories halfway through every time- like, maybe now there should be a monster! Or, now a young woman should show up in the old man's life and we'll see what happens. She establishes characters and setting so well, then changes them pretty boldly, in ways that honestly surprise me. And work.

Ultimately though I feel like she does an "I'm an old lady and I don't believe in wrapping stories up neatly" thin
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Felicity
Jan 26, 2008 Felicity rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Felicity by: Jeannine Hall
A good story makes me want to read the next one; a great one makes me close the book, almost involuntarily. I want to read the next one, but not yet, not yet. There were several such stories in this little volume of five short stories.

Byatt, here, is inventive and unexpected. She brings characters rapidly to life and into their strange fates, and captures moments of vivid humanity. The stories are both dark and luminous.

The least strong, in my opinion, is "Body Art," which seemed slightly contr
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Sam
Aug 13, 2012 Sam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, shorts
This is the first of Byatt's work I have read and I must say I did rather enjoy these stories. Each one has a darkly Gothic feel combining tragedy and horror with a human element to stop the story becoming unfeeling and flat. My two particular favourites were The Thing in the Forest and A Stone Woman both of which combined strong women in somewhat unusual circumstances where they have to dig deep and find their own strength to face their demons. Definitely an author I will look out for in future ...more
Alicia
May 29, 2015 Alicia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Byatt no es una mujer fácil. Esto es Goodreads, así que muchos -¿todos?- los que estamos aquí conocemos ese meme: “La mayoría de las personas no sabe cómo reaccionar cuando una frase no acaba del modo en que ella salchicha”. Así me he quedado yo con algunos de los relatos de este libro. Bien escritos hasta el punto de querer leerlos en V.O. y tanto como para agradecer su labor al traductor, inteligentes, ágiles y removedores. De los que se te pegan a las arterias, como el colesterol malo. Y sin ...more
Kelly
Nov 05, 2013 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
I have enjoyed this collection of short stories more than any that I have read in quite a while. This is my first experience reading Byatt and I was very impressed. She is a beautiful writer. My favorite story was "Stone Woman." It was absolutely amazing. It may be my favorite short story of all time. That story is a must read for anyone who is a lover of nature. Her descriptions in that story are incredible and beautiful.
Adam
Some of Byatt's best stories (this is the fourth collection I've read), and among the best short stories I've read in recent memory (most of which have been Byatt's). Each of these tales is dense with emotionally resonant characters, sharp prose, palpable aesthetics, and interesting, considered thematic connections running throughout. Many of them are fantasy tales. Perhaps the thing I like best about her work in general is how she shows time and again that a mature perspective can find a lot of ...more
Abailart
May 22, 2009 Abailart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Five astonishing stories. I was utterly engrossed for a week in which I did little else than read them.

I got this for ten pence from the local library sale. More evidence if it were needed that what is most valuable in life costs next to nothing.
Ярослава
Jan 21, 2015 Ярослава rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: litfic
Остання художня книжечка чудової Антонії Баєтт, яка в мене лишалася нечитаною:(
Дуже акуратна збірка оповідань - евакуйовані з Лондону під час Бліцкригу дівчатка бачать у лісі щось страшне, згорьована жінка буквально перетворюється на камінь і переїздить до Ісландії, вчитель літературної майстерності у провінційному містечку знаходить літературну перлинку й безодню жаского, старий дбає про свою жінку з хворобою Альцгеймера - об'єднаних кількома спільними мотивами. Приємно-тривожний набір роздумів
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Ariel
Jun 26, 2015 Ariel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
On the whole and as individual stories, very intriguing. I like Byatt's style and imagination and found it lead to intense moments that usually end up being the indelible breath of such things. For example, the first story, "The Thing in the Forest," takes a historical theme (children being sent out of London on trains during WWII) and adds literary elements that are very campfire-familiar (two kids in the woods end up seeing something that shapes their lives and relationship) to create an inten ...more
Albert
Feb 10, 2014 Albert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Little Black Book of Stories by A.S. Byatt is a collection of short stories in which the characters and settings are slightly twisted. Tales of wonder and the bizarre that masquerade as reality for the rest of the world. There are five tales in all and range from the amazing to the tragic.

"...The two little girls looked at each other, and took each other's hand. Speechlessly and instinctively they crouched down behind a fallen tree-trunk, and trembled, as the thing came into view..."

In The
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Bitsy
Mar 30, 2010 Bitsy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn’t, going in, expecting fairy glens and unicorns or anything like that. But, I still wasn’t quite prepared for the direction these fairy tales written for adults took. They were modern, entirely, in the first place. And, secondly, they were centered around World War II and its aftermath in the UK.

Each tale brought home to me a different aspect of humanity, whether it was our different ways of dealing with problems, difficulties and unknowns in our lives... perhaps even our ways of dealing
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Marthine Satris
Dec 03, 2013 Marthine Satris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the first story in this wee book, and like the others as well -- fans of Audrey Niffenegger's Her Fearful Symmetry or Byatt's own Possession will really enjoy the tingling dread of the first gorgeously mannered story, and the others are a good balance to the luxurious, building horror of the first story.

I bought the hard copy, and the design of the jacket and the book as a whole is so beautiful. It captures the dark and unnerving spirit of the stories, which are slightly shifted from real
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Charles Matthews
Dec 07, 2009 Charles Matthews rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review originally ran in the San Jose Mercury News on May 2, 2004:

Look at -- no, better yet, listen to the way this story begins:
''There were once two little girls who saw, or believed they saw, a thing in a forest.''

How can you not read that story? As that sentence delicately steps from naive to sinister, it evokes the shivery delights of campfire tales.
Which is precisely what A.S. Byatt intends it to do. The first of the five stories in her slim but extraordinary new collection, ''Lit
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tatiana
I would have given it a solid four stars if I didn't already rank Byatt as one of my favorite contemporary writers, because this is most certainly a well-written and imaginative little collection of dark tales. However, I do think it lacks the thoughtful and poetic quality of much of her other work, so consider this a three and a half star review.

Of the five stories, "A Stone Woman" and "The Thing in the Forest" were the most successful at displaying Byatt's talent for blending the magical with
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Erin
May 20, 2015 Erin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, short-stories
After reading so many wonderful reviews about this book, I was sure I was going to love it, but I was a bit disappointed.

Perhaps I was expecting something different. Overall, I was a bit bored and really didn't enjoy most of the stories. I did like "Raw Material" about a creative writing group and the strange outcome of one of the members. "Pink Ribbon" was surprisingly good at the end, about the man and his wife who suffered dementia.

The other stories I really could do without. I found the stor
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Carolyn Mck
Apr 02, 2015 Carolyn Mck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this set of stories. Having recently completed Drabble's 'A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman', I was able to compare the writing of the sisters who have such ongoing hostility towards each other and each other's work. I have always thought Byatt by far the better writer and these stories confirmed my view. She is more inventive and has a more intense and precise style. I haven't liked all her work (some is a bit too clever by half) but I relished the craft displayed in these stories. Eac ...more
Lia
Jan 06, 2015 Lia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
I've been giving a lot of four and five star reviews lately, which seems optimistic but actually I think it's a kind of pessimism where I can't imagine writing anything of worth at all so anything I enjoy automatically deserves the highest accolades.

But: this is a small collection of some rather long and quite good short stories. I loved "Body Art" and "Raw Material" and it's interesting to think about what a different writer or editor may have approached the same idea. "Body Art" could have be
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Vanessa
Jul 01, 2014 Vanessa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful. Brutal. Macabre. I just loved this. The stories are all very different, but feel linked in that they are about women; women's relationships, women's bodies, the shape of women's lives. And the prose is just dazzling. She's so damned good.

The Thing in the Forest is a horror story about two little girls sent to the country to escape the bombings during WWII who see something unspeakable. The story is about how differently they react, and how differently their lives turn out. It is genu
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Adam Cherson
Dec 23, 2015 Adam Cherson rated it really liked it
I rate this book a 3.86 on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being best. While there is some unevenness in the quality of these stories, the good ones are really, really good (i.e., Thing in the Forest, Body Art, and The Pink Ribbon). There always seems to be something eldritch going on under the surface of normal life, something that defies a rational explanation. Byatt, who is the elder sister of writer Margaret Drabble, is simply virtuosic at injecting the macabre into the quotidian. I would go as far as ...more
Joe
Jan 22, 2014 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ore from the work:
"Life runs in very narrow stereotyped channels, until it is interrupted by accidents or visions."

I've taught this book's stories several times in a class called "Fantastical Literature." I think that the name of the class kept me from coming upon any overriding theme until--voila! Now I can list several. But first, let me write that Dame Byatt--I love using the Brit appellations when I can--is not only a wonderful wordsmith, but a fine storyteller. My favorite in this collectio
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A.S. Byatt (Antonia Susan Byatt) is internationally known for her novels and short stories. Her novels include the Booker Prize winner Possession, The Biographer’s Tale and the quartet, The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower and A Whistling Woman, and her highly acclaimed collections of short stories include Sugar and Other Stories, The Matisse Stories, The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Ey ...more
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“Well, I would hardly say I do write as yet. But I write because I like words. I suppose if I liked stone I might carve. I like words. I like reading. I notice particular words. That sets me off.” 2 likes
“He always told them the same thing, to begin with. ‘Try to avoid falseness and strain. Write what you really know about. Make it new. Don’t invent melodrama for the sake of it. Don’t try to run, let alone fly, before you can walk with ease.” 2 likes
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