How Much the Heart Can Hold is a collection of seven short stories on love, written by seven different authors. I wanted to read it because they were short stories, which are one of my favourite things to read; I was nervous to read it because it had love in the title, and love stories are not one of my favourite things.
In the introduction, this reaction is one the editor says she is used to, this expectation that the stories will be on romantic love. She is quick to stress that this isn’t the case. Instead, the inspiration behind this collection comes from the Ancient Greek’s idea of love and that there are different aspects to it: familial love, charitable, passion and desire, love of self amongst them. That the book looks at love from these angles makes the stories much more interesting that they might first appear.
The fact that they were written by seven different authors, though, also mean that – for me – they were a little hit and miss. Some, I thought, were great. Some just didn’t do it for me at all. Among the great for me were the opening story, Before it Disappears by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, which had as it’s theme anorexia and the pain it causes the individual and the family but also how it is so addictive to not eat. I also really liked Magdala, Who Slips Sometimes by Donal Ryan about a woman who loves to love and just can’t help herself.
Both had interesting ideas and interesting endings, ones I didn’t necessarily expect. It’s hard, I think, in short stories to get the balance right. Stories can be too abstract or try to be too “deep”. That was my problem with the one story I just couldn’t get away with, White Wine by Nikesh Shukla. There was nothing wrong with the writing but the idea behind what I was reading just didn’t make it through to me.
The rest of the stories were somewhere in-between these highs and lows; I enjoyed them all to a greater or lesser degree. It would have been nice to have more consistency but there are seven authors here and I wouldn’t get that from seven books read back to back so I need to remember that; it is asking a lot for every story to hit the mark, even from the same author.
Which leaves me in a bit of a quandary as to how I feel about the book and whether I would recommend it. I think I have to go with liking it a little (which would be three stars on goodreads) but with the caveat some of these were loved and others not for me. As for recommending it, I would because everyone will find something different in here, and that can’t be a bad thing.
About the book…
‘No one has measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.’
Love is not a singular concept.
In this collection, seven award-winning authors explore seven concepts of love: from Philautia, self-love, to Agape, love for humanity; and from Storge, a natural affection for family, to Mania, a frenzied, obsessive love.
Seven authors; seven short stories; seven flashes of love.
Published: 3rd November, 2016
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Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.