Woohoo! It’s one of the highlights of my literary year once again. The best in British short story-writing talent is celebrated, and shared with the world.
I was so, so chuffed that Laura from the amazing Comma Press sent over a copy of these stories, as it doesn’t even appear to be available in the US yet. But never fear, because all the nominated stories are available worldwide on BBC Sounds (linked below).
This is Kerry Andrew’s second appearance on the NSSA shortlist, their previous story To Belong To was shortlisted in 2018, and is a gorgeous story about grief. This year, Andrew has written a tale of two different men thrown together on a road trip through a post-apocalyptic world, and the unexpected relationship that blossoms. Andrew’s story is so rich, it almost feels like an entire novel.
The multi-talented Andrew is also an accomplished composer, and their musical touches to the story give it an extra layer of authenticity. The brief author’s note after the story made me do a little cry.
I won’t lie, I’m a Jenn Ashworth fangirl. When I saw her name on the NSSA shortlist, I did a little yelp. Her recent novels Ghosted, and Fell, and wonderful, but I have absolutely adored her short stories for years.
Flat 19 is the gloriously odd tale of Eve, who takes strange measures to temporarily escape her life. I won’t say much more, because this story is full of surprises, and I absolutely loved it. I completely related to a story of an overwhelmed wife, mother, employee, woman, and I thought Jenn’s creative solution to the problem was genius. The ending genuinely made me say “oh my god” out loud, and it was perfect. As a Shirley Jackson fan, it made my heart glow.
This story is about a man driving across Texas to see his estranged, dying brother, to claim the house that he feels is rightfully his. It is another story of blossoming relationships, and suppressed sexuality. I always enjoy reading about British writers’ takes on the US; especially when they have lived here, which Bailey evidently did. There can be a strange beauty to the desolate landscapes, which Bailey has captured beautifully.
Another standout story for me. Almost like a dream, we are guided through an unconventional murder mystery, with Onwuemezi’s gorgeous poetic language. Again, no spoilers for this one, but the labyrinthine journey is worth the incredibly sad payoff. I haven’t had a chance to listen to this one yet, but I’m looking forward to hearing the beautiful rhythms come alive.
This is definitely the sweetest story of the bunch. A newly blended family takes their first vacation together, further intensifying a feud between Jasmine, and her new younger step-sister Stella. When Jasmine invites her friend Blue to join them, Stella becomes besotted with this wonderful woman.
I loved this story too, it’s incredibly warm. A gorgeous coming-of-age tale, highlighting key moments of self-discovery. It’s beautiful.
Another incredibly strong shortlist, with a wide variety of stories. Flat 19 is my winner, but I’m just happy these stories have been shared.
Thanks to the BBC for keeping this award going, and to Comma Press for publishing the collection. And if you ever want help judging the award, you know where to find me!