John Wyndham’s Trouble with Lichen

Trouble With Lichen is John Wyndham's most explicit exploration of the uselessness of modern women’s lives. When I reread it, for what must have been the 50th time, I was surprised to see that it was first published in 1960. It reads at least a decade older than that, maybe even fifteen years, since it shares many of the plot points … Continue reading John Wyndham’s Trouble with Lichen

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In praise of H P Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

Has the time come for an Edith Wharton-H P Lovecraft mashup? If it weren’t for casual remarks about cars, trucks and a jazz club, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward could be read alongside any of Wharton’s short novels, or even a Henry James. His prose is elegant, and involved, requiring close attention to read the meaning … Continue reading In praise of H P Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

The wild romantic haybags of Sarah Maine’s Bhalla Strand

A lot of people must go home from a summer holiday on the Scottish islands thinking, ‘I must write a novel about the Hebrides’. It’s a cliché, and a tempting marketing opportunity. I can imagine that publishers might brush aside their doubts about publishing a rather average novel if it’s set on Skye or Mull or wherever, … Continue reading The wild romantic haybags of Sarah Maine’s Bhalla Strand

Gender-neutral military service in Elizabeth Moon’s Once a Hero

Elizabeth Moon writes sf about the space navy, making combat and military command truly gender-neutral: I did a podcast on her back in 2012. I first came across Moon when she co-wrote volumes 1 and 3 of a space trilogy with Anne McCaffrey, called Sassinak and Generation Warriors. I was powerfully struck by these novels because … Continue reading Gender-neutral military service in Elizabeth Moon’s Once a Hero

Why studying middlebrow matters

Over on Vulpes Libris, I review Nicola Humble's book Culinary Pleasures, about cookbooks, food history, how the British learned to cook, and what disastrous food and kitchen fads we have survived. This was an interesting one to review, because before she published Culinary Pleasures, Professor Nicola Humble was queen of middlebrow studies, author of The Feminine … Continue reading Why studying middlebrow matters

The language of the invaded in Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake

This is the strangest and most powerful novel I’ve read in a long time. The strangeness and power come from its eerie, invented, ghost of early English, positioned some way between the impenetrableness of Anglo-Saxon and the Englishes more familiar to the eye from the medieval period. Even though this is completely inauthentic, because Paul … Continue reading The language of the invaded in Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake

Depth and richness in Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite

I think this may have been the first sf novel I read that I instantly recognised as feminist: not stealth, or muted, or sub-conscious. It was Nicola Griffith’s first novel, and if she had never written anything again it would still be stunning: it won the Tiptree Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Premio … Continue reading Depth and richness in Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite