Writers often deplore the fact that there is no market for short stories. Audiobooks could change all that. The form is perfect for a couple of sides of a cassette. Penguin Audiobooks has paved the way with its superb series of four-cassette anthologies from different parts of the English-speaking world. English Short Stories 1800-1900 (Penguin, c 8hrs, pounds 12.50) is the one I'd happily take to a desert island with me: a marvellous bonsai harvest by Paul Bailey from the forest of 19th-century English literature, with tales by Mrs Gaskell, Kipling and Conrad, among others. Nigel Davenport is the mainstay of a varied cast of readers. Star of the second volume English Short Stories 1900-1950 (Penguin, c 8hrs, pounds 12.50) is Prunella Scales reading "Cross Currents" by Saki; the only disappointment was a coy rendering of Forster's "The Celestial Omnibus" by Julian Wyndham.

Christina Hardyment

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