Short story review: ‘The House on St. John’s Avenue’ by Paul McMichael

Title: ‘The House on St. John’s Avenue’ by Paul McMichael
Collection/Anthology?: Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology 6 (Bristol Review of Books Ltd.)
Date Read: 05 January 2014
Briefly: Eric and Jack head to Robert and Felipe’s remodelled home for a dinner date, not knowing about the mind blowing surprise they have in store for them.
Afterthoughts: The subtitle to this short story – a short tale about love, family and theoretical cosmology – gives a suggestion that there is something more than straightforward about Irish-born Paul McMichael’s tale. And from the calm of normality, albeit campish normality with a flavour of the satirical about it (lots of arm touching, swivelling and attention to decor :)), springs a surprise that nobody could predict ahead of reading.

The ‘surprise’ is implanted to mix things up, and it certainly does, even if at first it all feels a little gimmicky. But read on however, and a new dimension is brought to the proceedings (quite literally), taking the story in a slightly new direction, while thankfully maintaining the pepperings of humour.

Do I think that The House on St. John’s Avenue is worthy of its top placing in this edition of the Bristol Short Story Prize? Well, it’s all too soon for me to say of course, but it certainly does use some beautiful language (“Robert pours, the wine washing into each large balloon glass and sinking into a slow buttery vortex”; “The door cracks, pastel blue walls inside”) and it’s all tied together well. But if I’m being completely honest I didn’t get the instant hit of gratification that I did with say Valerie O’Riordan’s searing piece of flash fiction, Mum’s The Word (afterthoughts HERE) which won her the prize in 2010, or Emily Bullock’s fabulous My Girl (afterthoughts HERE), which took the prize in 2011. Make of that what you will, but best I reserve overall judgement on this story’s worthiness as winner until after I’ve read *all* of the shortlisted stories.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Bristol Short Story Prize Antholgy 6 (Bristol Review of Books) This story was read as part of a review of the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology, Volume 6. If you want to find out more about this anthology then I invite you to head on over and read my ‘forethoughts’ post, and/or visit the Bristol Short Story Prize website.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. Paul McMichael says:

    Can’t believe I missed this, me scouring the web for a mention. As per Oscar Wilde, the only thing worse than being reviewed (however tentative), is not being being reviewed. As every winner probably says, I had no notion that this would be a contender (just read Emily’s wonderful ringside bout), never mind a winner. But there you go.

    Thanks for reading and blogging about short stories.

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

      How lovely of you to drop by, Paul. And my pleasure for reviewing. It’s no effort when stories are this well written and engaging. Keep up the good work.