Last week, Victoria Hislop came to the HoZ office to discuss the final list of contributors for her upcoming anthology of women’s short stories. A few hours later, having thrown names back and forth across the table, wrinkled noses in childish disgust over suggestions, beamed with delight at the mention of authors half-forgotten yet passionately loved, I was exhausted. It turns out, dear reader, that choosing “the best” 100 is not so easily done after all.

Victoria has read hundreds, if not thousands, of short stories, both in preparation for this book and for pleasure in the years that predate it. But still she hadn’t read any Anna Kavan – one of my most loved – at which I raised a voice in protest. You must, you must. And so she did, and happily Kavan made it onto the shortlist. I, in turn, knew nothing of the wonderful Lydia Davis before Victoria sang her praises and insisted I give her a whirl. Whirl her I did, and love her I do. But however much you read, you can never have read it all – both a pleasure and a pain.

In her introduction, which I received yesterday, Victoria has likened her anthology to a huge box of chocolates, and this is just exactly what it is. These stories are surprising, satisfying and sometimes naughty. But, like all variety boxes, you might accidently bite into a hated coconut cream, and find, to your horror, that the vanilla fudge has been omitted entirely! This is Victoria Hislop’s personal selection, these are her favourites – heaven knows she may delight in coconut creams – and we buy variety boxes, after all, for the dangerous thrill of surprise. 

Victoria Hislop's anthology, The Story (Love, Laughter and Loss: 100 Stories by Women Writers), will publish on 1st September this year in beautiful hardback and in ebook.