Little Black Book of Stories
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Little Black Book of Stories

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  1,617 ratings  ·  205 reviews
Like Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, Isak Dinesen and Angela Carter, A. S. Byatt knows that fairy tales are for grownups. And in this ravishing collection she breathes new life into the form.

Little Black Book of Stories offers shivers along with magical thrills. Leaves rustle underfoot in a dark wood: two middle-aged women, childhood friends reunited by cha...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 8th 2005 by Vintage (first published 2003)
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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
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...more
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
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......
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.

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...more
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...more
Mar 20, 2007 Imogen rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
Jan 26, 2008 Felicity rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
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
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.
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...more
Claire Monahan
This would be a 2.5, but I'll bump it up to 3 for writing quality alone.

Not sure how I feel about this one. Honestly, the reviews on the back of the book blew it so out of proportion that I felt I should feel underwhelmed, so the fact that I am is all the more disappointing. Ms. Byatt certainly knows how to turn a phrase, but her stories never found the niche I desired. Were they intended to be creepy? Insightful? Mesmerizing? One cannot know.

I think I hold short stories to a higher standard b...more
Marthine Satris
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...more
Charles Matthews
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...more
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...more
Aug 05, 2008 Erin rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
The first Byatt I read was Ragnarök, and I was blown away by her ability to make the modern, the contemporary sound mythical. There is magical realism which uses fantastic, magical worlds to tell us something about our own, and then there is Byatt who tells us that our own world is still magical. She imbues everyday tasks with a hermetic sense of ritual that makes them seem otherworldly. By the time you're done with each story, you are uncertain whether the magical aspects of the story were real...more
Terry Pearce
Excellent set of stories. This is the first I've read of Byatt, but it won't be the last.
This is my first experience with the works of A.S. Byatt. I enjoy her writing style immensely and have already marked some of her other books as to-read. The stories held my attention and the language is gorgeous. My favorite stories were "The Thing in the Forest" and "Raw Material." I would give those stories Five stars. The other stories, I only give three stars because the plots were not to my personal taste, but they were very well written, surprising and attention holding. I suppose that av...more
I love A.S. Byatt. I know some people think her display of knowledge is annoying and elitist, but I really appreciate the amount of research she puts into her work. (I don't dare saying this out loud, but: Maybe it's really their own lack of knowledge that annoys them? I would say, keep your eyes and ears open and learn.)

My favourite story in this collection is 'Stone Woman' about a woman who 'surprise, surprise' turns slowly into stone. The detail in the descriptions is amazing. We're not talki...more
May 10, 2010 Kirsta rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2010
I have a hard time with short story collections for several reasons and yet I still pick them up. This collection highlights two of my biggest issues with short stories.

Issue number 1 (the story that should be longer) is perfectly illustrated in Body Art. This story was so rich and layered and was screaming for further development so as to be novel length. I felt like the story was concluded as it should be, but was left wishing that the story had been much longer and more explored.

The next stor...more
Josh Ang
The tone of this collection is best summed up when a character in the last story, ‘The Pink Ribbon’ reflected on another episode involving his wife’s dementia: “This then, was a tale of strangeness he could just about tell to a friend in a pub. It had an aesthetic horror to it that was pleasing”.

From the literal and physical in ‘The Thing in the Forest’ and ‘A Stone Woman’; to the metaphysical in ‘The Pink Ribbon’; and possibly psychical in ‘Body Art’ and ‘Raw Material’, the stories all deal wit...more
Althea Ann
I've read several of Byatt's books - mostly because the covers tend to be irresistible. Until now, I've always found them to be good, but not amazing. This slim book of short stories is definitely my favorite of her work that I've read so far - perhaps I should go out of my way to find more of her short work!
Although advertised as 'fairy tales' these works are more 'inspired by' fairy tales than actual fairy tales. Well. Kinda sorta. I would recommend this to people who enjoyed Angela Carter's '...more
Byatt writes beautiful prose, brisk but voluptuous in all the right places. This book is also full of masterful storytelling of imagination and pyschological depth: there is beauty and violence and gruesome bodies and the pathos of growing old.

I esp. like the story about the woman who turns to stone and travels to Iceland to become a mythical being. And in "Raw Materials", I liked how Byatt examines the relationship between human melodrama and human simplicity, as well as our expectations and a...more
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...more
Helen Kitson
Where Helen Simpson's stories are mostly grounded in everyday realities, Byatt's stories have more in common with fairy tales. In the first story, 'The Thing in the Forest', Hansel and Gretel is mentioned explicitly. The story concerns two women who, as young girls, were evacuated to the country. During their stay there, they wandered into a forest and saw (or did they?) the 'Thing' of the title, a terrifying creature reminiscent of the Laidly worm. In 'A Stone Woman', a woman finds herself (app...more
Eric Bruen
So far I really liked the first story and was disppointed with the second one, so not sure how this book will pan out for me. So I'll give each story a star rating as I read and then give the book an adjust my overall star rating accordingly as I go.

1. The Thing in the Forest - 4 stars
2. Body Art - 1 star
3. The Stone Woman - 5 stars - loved it
4. Raw Material - 3 stars
5. The Pink Ribbon - 3 stars

Now that I've finished, it was a mixed bag for me. Mostly positive.

The most memorable and intriguing...more
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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-winning 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 E...more
More about A.S. Byatt...
Possession The Children's Book Angels and Insects The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye The Virgin in the Garden

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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
“She thought human thoughts and stone thoughts. The latter were slow, patchily coloured, textured and extreme, both hot and cold. They did not translate into the English language, or into any other she knew: they were things that accumulated, solidly, knocked against each other, heaped and slipped.” 2 likes
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