‘Circus Loves’

The lights, the music, the heady smell of sawdust and horses turned my young grandmother’s head in 1915. She almost ran away with the circus, and although she didn’t she never forgot the experience.

I’ve written about my Swedish grandmother’s crush on equestrienne Othelia Orlando and the tragedy, a generation earlier, of the young acrobat Elvira Madigan. Two very different stories of circus loves in Sweden more than a century ago. You can read the piece here: Kitchen Table Quarterly, 3.


Winner of Trip Fiction ‘Sense of Place’ contest

I’m so pleased that a story of mine won first prize in the 2021 Trip Fiction ‘Sense of Place’ contest. The judges were novelists Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley, publisher Katharina Bielenberg (MacLehose Press), and Tina Hartas (founder of TripFiction).

The story is a fictionalised account of the journey my grandmother made in October 1940, leaving her home in Bangkok to return to Sweden because of the war. You can read it here:

My essay on Henri Bergson, time & my Swedish grandmother

I’m currently researching a creative nonfiction book – working title, Cool Hearts: the story of a Swedish family – and my enquiries have led me into many interesting side alleys. One of the by-products is this essay on Henri Bergson, the nature of time and memory, and my Swedish grandmother, which was published in the digital magazine Aeon/ Psyche (8 September 2020).

My grandmother Sigbrit (foreground, left) and friends, 1917

One of Ian Critchley’s Books of 2019

Thrilled to see Live Show, Drink Included picked as one of four short story collections that stood out for writer, reviewer and book blogger Ian Critchley in 2019. Great company to find myself in. This is a snippet from his blog post:

Screenshot_2019-12-10 Ian Critchley

To read his full selection of Books of the Year, 2019, click here.

Edge Hill Award Ceremony

The prize giving ceremony for the Edge Hill Award was on Friday 25th October at Waterstones Piccadilly. David Szaly won both the single story prize and the overall £10K prize for Turbulence, his collection of linked stories about plane journeys. Szaly is brilliant writer, named as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists in 2013 and shortlisted for the Booker in 2016, so I have no complaints. Below are pictures of the three of us debut authors reading: Wendy Erskine from her collection Sweet Home, me from Live Show, Drink Included and Chris Power from Mothers. Then there’s Judge Tessa Hadley making her speech and handing David Szaly his award. After that we migrated to the 5th floor for drinks and canapes till 10pm, then on to the pub for more conversations. A wonderfully warm and light-hearted occasion.


Another review for Live Show

IMG_2391Sabotage Reviews is a website established in 2017 ‘to provide dynamic commentary and reviews of small-scale and ephemeral literature that might not otherwise receive critical and public attention’.

Reviewing Live Show on the 31st of August, Joshua Lambert says: ‘it’s the characters rather than any particular snatches of writing that stick in the mind. I have a few minor niggles, perhaps – I didn’t buy the children, for instance – but by and large, Grut’s talent for character is phenomenal.

Children aside, not a single character appears in these pages without provenance, motivation, desires, flaws, and obsessions. This may sound like a given, but it really isn’t; short story writers could learn a lot from Grut.

‘The story which left the biggest impression was undoubtedly the last, ‘Into the Valley‘, a beautiful story about a woman staying by her in-law’s bedside in her last few days before death. What’s most striking about it is the sheer messiness of it all. There’s no romance, no literary acceptance, no thematic resonance in death: it is just awful. The mother-in-law suffers through delusions and night terrors, afraid of death and unwilling to face it head-on, prompting an equally raw reaction from the main character:

“At some ridiculous level I find myself disapproving of her tenacity, as if it’s a kind of greed, a lack of acceptance. I don’t think I’d struggle this hard, not even at the age I am now. Perhaps I don’t love life enough. Perhaps I’ll feel differently when I get to eighty.”

Grut’s tenderness and understanding, present throughout, shines like a halogen bulb here.

Shortlisted for Edge Hill

The news came in this morning via twitter. I’m on the shortlist for the 2019 Edge Hill Prize, the only UK-based award that recognises excellence in a single author short story collection. I am so honoured to be in the company of such wonderful writers. The full list is as follows:

Wendy Erskine – Sweet Home (Stinging Fly)
Vicky Grut – Live Show Drink Included (Holland Park Press)
Chris Power – Mothers (Faber & Faber)
David Szalay – Turbulence (Jonathan Cape)
Simon Van Booy – The Sadness of Beautiful Things (Penguin)
Lucy Wood – The Sing of the Shore (4th Estate)

Longlisted for Edge Hill Short Story Prize

I’ve just discovered my name on the list for the 2019 Edge Hill Prize. So honoured and pleased to be in such great company. The prize website says: ‘The twelve strong longlist represents an exciting range of new writing from UK and Irish writers’. The longlist in full is:

Leila Aboulela – Elsewhere Home (Telegram/SAQI)
Michael Conley – Flare and Falter (Splice)
Wendy Erskine – Sweet Home (Stinging Fly)
Clare Fisher – How the Light Gets In (Influx Press)
Mia Gallagher – Shift (New Island)
Vicky Grut – Live Show Drink Included (Holland Park Press)
Rosemary Jenkinson – Catholic Boy (Doire Press)
Chris Power – Mothers (Faber & Faber)
Lionel Shriver – Property (The Borough Press)
David Szalay – Turbulence (Jonathan Cape)
Simon Van Booy – The Sadness of Beautiful Things (Penguin)
Lucy Wood – The Sing of the Shore (4th Estate)

A short list will be announced by September 2019, with the winner of the £10,000 prize announced at a ceremony in London in November.

The judges of this year’s prize are Elizabeth Baines (writer and short story expert), Tessa Hadley (Winner of the 2018 Edge Hill Short Story Prize) and Sam Jordison (writer, journalist and co-founder of Galley Beggar Press).


Two New Reviews

Two very favourable reviews of ‘Live show, Drink Included’ came out this month (May 2019).  Writing in the Glasgow Review of Books, Lynda Wardle says: ‘the stories open with characters jogging away on the treadmill of life, and then—deliciously for us—something is tweaked;’ […]’Her descriptions catch both the sense of twenty-first century living and the nuances of emotion that give these stories their humanity.’ […] ‘the story that fittingly closes the collection, ‘Into the Valley’, stands above the others in its refusal to deliver [a] neat punchline. This collection should be bought and shared for all the pieces, but most especially for this last one.’ Full Review here.

Reviewing the book on the US Amazon site, writer and translator Olga Núñez Miret, says: ‘This is a great collection of short stories. The author has a talent for being able to create a vivid background for her stories and she also gives us a good insight into who her characters are and what makes them tick. I am mostly a reader of novels, and I am aware that sometimes, even after reading a whole novel we still don’t have a clear sense of who these characters are, so this is a skill I particularly appreciate. The stories are beautifully observed; we get to see what is going on through the heads of the characters and also the situation that develops around them.’ And: ‘I was impressed by the quality of the collection and this is an author I intend to keep a close eye on in the future.’ This review has been reblogged by many US bloggers so I’m hoping that will generate sales in the States. Full review here.

Screenshot_May 2019_Glasgow Review of Books