Amanda's Circus

Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology 2013

bristol prize anthology

I’m thrilled that my story, Poison Hands, is included in this anthology, and it was great to meet so many of the writers at the awards ceremony at the Arnolfini Centre in Bristol’s docklands. Amazing views of the city from the fifth floor. We were frolicking (sorry, engaging in erudite literary banter) from around 4pm to 8pm, a perfect time to watch the sky change colour as the wine and talk flowed around us.

I thought I’d write a little about my take on the stories. At the moment, I’m reading the stories from the beginning of the book, rather than skipping here and there; I’m not picking subjects or styles that appeal to me, as I might usually do. And because short stories are so concentrated, and need time to resonate, I’m taking it slowly.


The winning story, The House On St. John’s Avenue by Paul McMichael, is a story about making space in your life for the future. It concerns Eric and his partner, Jack,  who have been invited to dinner at the home of friends. It is funny and beautifully observed:

‘Jack laughs a little. He lays down a blanket of shhhs and pats it into place with his hands.’

I won’t spoil your pleasure by giving anything away, the story is a treat, not only for its humour and observation, but also for its surprises. The first surprise we suspect, but the second is totally off the wall. Sometimes we need a prod with a taser to shock us into changing our lives. Ultimately, the story makes you think about your own life and how changes might be made, and it does this with wit and affection.


In the second story in the anthology, The Breakdown by Deepa Anappara, we are in the fecund wilderness of contemporary India witnessing the grief of Medha. It is a story of contrasts – the rich and the poor, Bunty and Nikhil, Sonaali and Medha, the Locarno Estate with its extravagant bungalows, CCTV and gold faucets, and the shanty where Medha lives:

‘She…watches the stones catch the golden light of the morning sun streaming through the holes in the corrugated iron sheets that form the walls of their home.’

And there’s the forest, the otherworld, from which hungry leopards spring to terrorise and kill.

At the start Medha is angry, and as she approaches her employer’s house, she decides to ignore the sign that says ‘no entry for servants’. But her anger isolates her, no one can touch her, she’s drowning in pain except when she remembers her son, and she doesn’t care about anyone or anything anymore; this leads her to contemplate a terrible revenge.

The story is an emotional one, we feel the cycle of Medha’s grief. I love exploring worlds that are very different from the one in which I live and Deepa has illustrated this beautifully. This story is about venturing beyond grief, and asks the question, would we, in these circumstances, dare to contemplate recovery, dare to believe in a future?

So that’s all for now. I’ll add more thoughts on the stories before too long. If you would like to buy a copy of the anthology, and I hope that you do, here’s the link: Bristol Prize Anthology Vol 6

2 Comments to "Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology 2013"

  1. Lavanya says:

    I read Poison Hands, and I want to say it was wonderfully written. I will have to read it again at a more reasonable hour to fully comprehend it, however, it was beautiful writing.

    • Amanda says:

      Thanks, Lavanya, so kind of you. It was one of those stories that came to mind as a series of pictures, and it was brilliant trying to put those images and ideas into words.

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About writing, trickery and a little music