Van has finished reading…How Much The Heart Can Hold

23 Sep


I’d love to see more of this. How Much The Heart Can Hold is that rarest of rare beasts in the publishing world: a collection of short stories – a collection of short stories about Love, no less. Can you just picture that first production meeting?

‘Love stories,’ (pinched face)

‘Short ones?’ (eye rolling, the accountant dry-retching into a hankie).


The simple fact is that a good short story collection shouldn’t be such a hard sell. The oft-vaunted buoyancy of the form, the sheer weight of writers active in – indeed, devoted to short stories points to a waiting market. And while it is true that a really good short story is a very difficult thing to write, there are clearly many writers capable of doing exactly that. In How Much The Heart Can Hold, Sceptre have put together seven such writers and presented each, it seems to me, with a facet of the same challenge: to reclaim the word Love. Take off the tarnish, show us that it is so much more than cheap currency, a catch-all, a silence-filler, an excuse or a reason. In the seven specially-commissioned stories the writers take us through variations of what love is, and they do it very well.

Rowan Buchanan’s keen eye for detail and atmosphere ushers us to the border between fantasy and reality in a tale about unrequited love; D.W. Wilson gives us a muscle car, a clenched fist and a past the won’t lie down as he tackles enduring love; Nikesh Shukla explores the love of self with a sibling whose moment of realisation echoes through generations, and leaves us to the last to unlock the title of his story; Donal Ryan presents a desperate and very moving story of obsessive love; Carys Bray, who seems to understand that what the heart holds it does so delicately, that fierce and tender are not mutually exclusive, and manages to infuse all this into her writing, studies familial love; Grace McCleen takes us back to the beginning with a coming of age tale whose protagonist skirts the very edge of joy and pain, of naivety and knowledge as she unpicks the knots of erotic love; and Bernadine Evaristo’s protagonist watches over it all with a heart big enough to love us all.


If that’s not enough to tempt the scribblers among us, Sceptre will be launching a short story competition, running from How Much The Heart Can Hold’s publication date, 1st November, to Valentine’s day, 14th February 2017. And the prize? Well, there’s some money, but more tantalising than that is the prospect of having your winning story published alongside these seven pieces when the paperback gets launched!

Time to get writing…


How Much The Heart Can Hold will be published by Sceptre on 1st November 2016 ISBN:9781473649422

You can find the featured authors in these places:

Rowan is on Twitter @RowanHLB or at her website

D.W. Wilson is on Twitter @RedneckAbroad or at his website (when it’s finished)

Nikesh Shukla is on Twitter @nikeshshukla or at his website

Donal Ryan has better things to do

Carys Bray is on Twitter @CarysBray or at her website

Grace McCleen is at her website

Bernadine Evaristo is on Twitter @BernadineEvari or at her website


My sincere thanks to Emma at Sceptre for allowing me to read this delightful collection.

One Response to “Van has finished reading…How Much The Heart Can Hold”


  1. My top five reads of 2016 | vanisreading - 10/01/2017

    […] I get into top tens and top fives let me mention Sceptre’s excellent short story collection How Much The Heart Can Hold. It’s a superb collection, well worth getting hold of and the kind of thing I’d love to see […]

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