Thursday, 2 February 2017


What first gripped me with How Much the Heart Can Hold was the stunning cover; the textured matte cream hardcover compliments the anatomical drawing of the heart remarkably well, so much so that I display it rather gloriously on my shelf, cover pointing outwards so everyone can appreciate how beautiful it is. Yes, I’m that sad, but it’s so pretty; thankfully the inside of this collection is just as well-crafted as its cover.

How Much the Heart Can Hold explores the multitudinous concept of love and its many forms, including Eros, (sexual love) and Agape, (unconditional love)*, as well as five other stories exploring the complexity of one of our strongest emotions. The authors involved in this collection are: Carys Bray, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, Bernardine Evaristo, Grace McCleen, Donal Ryan, Nikesh Shukla and D. W. Wilson, award-winning writers who have each written unique and enthralling depictions of love. Each story is exceptional, and play within each individual writers’ style and common themes within their larger works making the collection diverse and engaging, with every writer bringing a fresh perspective to the idea of ‘love’.

'No one has measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.' - Zelda Fitzgerald

Nikesh Shukla’s short story, White Wine, explores Philautia, (or self-love, learning more towards respect for oneself and achievements as opposed to narcissism), and follows the story of a brother concerned over the racist attitudes and behaviour towards his sister from her boss, and her prevailing desire to bond with said jerk. The narrative of this story echoes only too realistically the still burgeoning racism and discrimination in Modern Britain towards ethnic minorities, in this case, South-Asian, with Rupa’s boss nick-naming her team as “his favourite terror cell”, with Rupa as “their fearless leader, Bin Laden”. Yes, really. White Wine explores the question of whether racism has actually decreased, with Rupa questioning her brother on whether people can still be racist as “it feels so old-fashioned”, while also exploring the idea of Philautia and loving oneself in light of such attitudes. White Wine is, inarguably, my favourite in this collection and has spurred me on to read more of Shukla’s work. His ability to combine the idea of Philautia with modern social issues that are increasingly

While all the stories in this collection are excellent, some stand out to me more than others, such as Buchanan’s Before It Disappears; a story based on La Douleur Exquisite, (unrequited love) in which a husband struggles with his wife’s eating disorder, as spurred on by his liaison with another woman, with an appearance by a unicorn. This story is sumptuous in its description and Buchanan is a marvellously detailed writer, evoking brilliant and vivid images in the mind’s eye with his unique expression. Also a favourite story of mine is Codas by Carys Bray, a story exploring Storge, (familial love) with a sweet tale of daughter’s concern for her football obsessed father when he is hospitalised, and her motherly love for her son, a keen footballer and ballet dancer.

How Much the Heart Can Hold contests the idea of love as being purely ‘romantic’ and delves deeper into what love is, and can do to the human psyche. Emma Herdman, the editor of this collection, has managed to bring together a group of exceptionally talented writers who succeed in challenging the binary conceptions of what love is with immense style, crafting seven stories that are equally captivating, moving, and intriguing. As a fairly new reader to short stories, I was immensely pleased with my reading experience of How Much the Heart Can Hold, and it has opened my eyes to the boundless potential of a medium I initially thought would be quite limited in subject and impact. I strongly recommend this collection to anyone dipping their toe into the short story genre, and already avid fans of the genre. This collection is fascinating, pushing me to question the potentials of ‘love’, as well as introducing me to multiple writers whose further works I wish to explore in the future.

Disclaimer: How Much the Heart Can Hold was sent to me from Spectre to review for free, via Bookbridgr. This has not affected my review and my opinion towards the books I receive gratis are honest and impartial.

Rating: ★★

Have you read How Much the Heart Can Hold? If so, I’d love to hear from you! Please don't hesitate to comment or get in touch with one of my social networks below!


- Georgia xo

* To any fellow Anime fans: These stories are not like Yuri on Ice. Sorry for bursting your katsudon bubbles.

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