Annie Clarkson, short story writer and poet, recommends…

(CLASSIC: from Little Birds, Penguin Classics)

I chose this story for its exploration of taboo. Manuel rents rooms next to a school, and fills his terrace with birds to attract small girls to his flat. It a shocking story, beautifully written. Anais Nin wrote erotic stories because she badly needed money. She wrote that ‘to bring them into the light was at first difficult’, perhaps because they are so exposing and controversial in their subject matter, but also because women writers at this time didn’t write about such matters.

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(MODERN: from Self Help, Faber)

I have only read this story once, but it has stayed with me for perhaps ten years and I still remember the way I felt when I first read it. We are intimately drawn into the life of a girl as she grows up witnessing and caught up in her mother’s gradual and devastating mental breakdown. It captures the emotion with such insight and depth, it left me aching with sadness.

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