Edith Wharton and The Custom of the Country

Novels about American women and work, number 2. This Really Like This Book podcast script revisit is about the story of a classic American social climber, Edith Wharton’s magnificent and chilling novel The Custom of the Country, from 1913. I hesitate to call Undine Spragg the heroine, since she is a horrible person, and a monster … Continue reading Edith Wharton and The Custom of the Country

Working is good for you: Louisa May Alcott’s An Old-Fashioned Girl

Louisa May Alcott's most famous novel, Little Women, and its three sequels make her still a highly popular author, but until fairly recently these were her only novels that most people could name. Many of her Gothic thrillers and sensational potboilers have been resurrected by scholars, the most well-known of which is a rather depressing adult novel of … Continue reading Working is good for you: Louisa May Alcott’s An Old-Fashioned Girl

Breathlessly whirling with Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion

Cotillion is not one of Georgette Heyer’s most well-known novels, nor is it one of the famous ones that get trotted out when trying to explain Heyer’s appeal to newcomers. However, it is absolutely one of my favourites, and recently, when I was suffering an overdose of dystopic and experimental science fiction, I had a … Continue reading Breathlessly whirling with Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion

1960s fetish magazines and ‘deviant’ porn: Gillian Freeman’s The Undergrowth of Literature

I tripped up over this remarkable 1967 study of fetish magazines in an academic second-hand bookshop, looking for something on magazine history. I didn't notice till later that the cover presents a rather stylised bondage scene, and so I decided that perhaps I wouldn't be reading this on the plane. When I did read it, at least two … Continue reading 1960s fetish magazines and ‘deviant’ porn: Gillian Freeman’s The Undergrowth of Literature

Save us from historical fiction done badly

I began reading a historical novel last week, sent to me for review, and it was too annoying to finish. I poked around for some time in different chapters, looking for enticements to keep reading, and decided that to review it the way I felt would be cruel and meaningless punishment for the author. The publisher was the … Continue reading Save us from historical fiction done badly

The stratagems of aristocratic survival, in Colette’s Julie de Carneilhan

This week's letter is C, and today’s author is Colette. Julie de Carneilhan was published in 1941, reprinted by Penguin in the 1950s in an English translation by Patrick Leigh Fermor. Apparently it was filmed in 1950, and in 1990. Leigh Fermor’s translation is over 60 years old now, as timeless as the novel itself, but also not modern; there’s … Continue reading The stratagems of aristocratic survival, in Colette’s Julie de Carneilhan