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Little Black Book of Stories

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  2,351 ratings  ·  299 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
Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 8th 2005 by Vintage (first published 2003)
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3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,351 ratings  ·  299 reviews

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Reading Byatt is like casting a net in a tropical fish tank: each dip brings a different combination, mostly of startling variety and beauty. But sometimes I catch some pondweed, rocks, or detritus as well.

I had a similar experience with this collection of five stories from 2003, ranging from 5* to 2*. I admire her work, but often find aspects that detract and distract. But the best are so good, I keep coming back.

They are superficially very different in style, setting, and plot, but they are c
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Curiosity killed the cat
Shelves: read-in-2016
Beguiling perplexity.
This is what Byatt’s five tales provoke in the spellbound reader.
But why are they black?
Byatt’s writing brims over with multichromatic imagination, but among the seemingly disparate storylines there is a common theme that binds them together: the imminent presence of death, lurking ominously around every corner, changing shapes and costumes, appearing as a blind, slimy monster from the depths of a forest during WWII, a walking metamorphosis from flesh to stone or in the form
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
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
May 01, 2018 rated it liked it
The human world of stones is caught in organic metaphors like flies in amber. Words came from flesh and hair and plants.

A collection of slightly stories which appear to announce in all-caps, IF I CARED MORE I WOULD PLAGIARIZE. Yet it doesn't. I am not sure about our own state either. Byatt is always will suited for the epic scale (As long as she avoids Babel) but the shorter pieces appear to stumble.

The Blitz features a few times here, as do geriatric concerns, obstetrics and gynecology. There'
Feb 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 04, 2018 rated it liked it
I read all of these dark, fairy-tale like stories dutifully but was glad to be finished. Byatt writes paragraphs of lush, descriptive prose but I found the language overpowering - I had an urge to skim. My favorite was "The Stone Woman" -- I can still see the images vividly in my mind.
Berfin Kanat
Hikayeler korku ögeleri taşısada ürkütmekten ziyade tuhaf hissettiriyor. Hepsini beğenerek okudum diyemem ama yazarın tarzı hoşuma gitti, diğer kitaplarını da okumak istiyorum.
Apr 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Richard Newton
Oct 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Rather wonderful. Beautifully written, adult stories which mix a little fantasy with a deep understanding of the human condition. These are long short stories - some really novellas. Intelligent writing showing that the best reading experience is best when less is explained. I liked all the stories, but the last two - Raw Material and The Pink Ribbon were particularly fine.
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
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
Jun 30, 2016 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.
Aug 04, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

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!
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Il "sapiente intreccio di elementi fantastici e di realtà quotidiana, di paure ancestrali e spaventi domestici, di emozioni e di sogno" (quarta di copertina) proprio non mi ha preso, in nessuno dei cinque racconti di questa raccolta.
Susan DeFreitas
Apr 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Feminist fairytales by a living master. She is to England what Ursula K. Le Guin is to the US, what Margaret Atwood is to Canada--but she might be my current favorite of the three because it is clear that the real, old, weird, hard tales of magic are in her blood.

To say that I loved this book would be an understatement. I wanted to eat it for all three meals of the day and sleep with it under my pillow. It's that good.
Mikko Saari
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oivallinen kokoelma, viisi kiinnostavaa ja tummasävyistä novellia. Kaksi tyttöä kohtaa sotavuosina metsässä hirviön; taiteilija putoaa lääkärin syliin yllättäen ja mitä siitä seuraa; nainen muuttuu pikkuhiljaa kiveksi; kirjoittajapiiri saa tarinoihinsa uutta materiaalia; mies hoitaa muistisairasta vaimoaan.

Aika tavanomaisia tarinoita, toisaalta; toisaalta omituisia ja synkkiä. Musta on monisävyinen väri, eivät nämä kaikki samaa synkkyyttä ole. Byatt on taitava kirjailija, jonka tekstiä on ilo l
 Linda (Miss Greedybooks)
I don't like short stories much. They all seem to get me interested in characters and subjects or places, then end up without finishing the story. Maybe the writer wants me to select my own finish? Maybe the writer was not sure what they wanted? Maybe they just got lazy? I love "Posession", so I am very surprised at "The Little Black Book of Stories". There were actually some very interesting beginnings. And I am disappointed to find these as what I call unfinished stories.
Berna Labourdette
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Es una antología breve, de cinco cuentos, pero ya sólo con "La Mujer de Piedra" merece destacar. Son todas narraciones como cuentos de hadas, con finales sorpresivos, muy bien escritos y evocadores, en su mayoría relacionados con la transición entre vida y muerte o el limbo entre ambas. En el caso de "La Mujer de Piedra", el solo paso de la materia orgánica a la inorgánica transforma el relato en una belleza. Muy bueno. 
Althea Ann
Jun 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 '
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
Mar 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Ade Bailey
Apr 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Charles Matthews
Dec 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This collection of stories has to be one of my favourites, ever.

Each one is surprising, compelling, moving. Byatt really gets into the psyche of her characters. She places them in strange & stimulating situations then expresses their struggles with her well-considered prose.

I loved A Stone Woman. Beautifully descriptive and set in such atmospheric landscapes, both emotional and physical. And A Pink Ribbon was so moving.

I think this is a book I will keep and reread.

In the meantime, I'll be lo
Mariano Hortal
publicado en

Estoy convencido de que este libro de cuentos es, sin lugar a dudas, la mejor puerta de entrada para conocer a esta escritora; mucho más que otros libros que, probablemente, resulten muy áridos a la hora de ponerse con ellos a pesar de su indudable calidad.
La razón es clara, en la mayoría de sus libros, hace un alarde de erudición e inteligencia que, posiblemente, abrume al lector poco acostumbrado a este tipo de lecturas. Sin embargo, en este
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Lovin' Short Fiction: Why is this little book black? 1 1 Mar 05, 2017 03:54AM  
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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
“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.” 3 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.” 3 likes
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