Here are short reviews of books I’ve liked recently, for your consideration. Georgette Heyer, Royal Escape (1938) This is not a Regency romance, and it’s possibly the weakest of her historical reconstructions, but I liked it enough to keep reading, simply because I don’t know the history of Charles II's escape from the Battle of … Continue reading These I have quite liked
This 1958 novel crackles with foreboding. It is based on the apparently artless retelling by a teenage girl of a summer spent in France with her elder sister and their younger siblings. It seethes with barely understood sexuality, and, in the absence of any reliable and responsible adults, the dangers that Joss and her sister … Continue reading Rumer Godden, The Greengage Summer
About 18 months ago I wrote about Susan Cooper's five-novel sequence called The Dark Is Rising. If published today they would be classified as children's / YA fantasy fiction. In the 1960s and 1970s when the five individual novels first came out - my editions are the slim 1980s Puffins with tight leading and a … Continue reading Re-reading Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising
Which Loki do you prefer? The Tom Hiddleston iteration of Loki is out and about again, in Thor: Ragnarok, which I would rate at 7 out of 10. He's a lot less Loki-ish in this film than in his earlier appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I think he loses impact by being normalised. … Continue reading Which Loki?
So many famous writers in this issue from 1949! Laurie Lee, Frank O’Connor, Anna Kavan, Patrick Leigh-Fermor and Jacquetta Hawkes! Had John Lehmann’s ship come in? Frank O’Connor’s ‘The Landlady’ is one of the most readable stories Lehmann published in Penguin New Writing, and it’s not gloomy, or cruel to women, or about tight-lipped privilege. … Continue reading Penguin New Writing 37: The embrace of the weird
I must be one of the last people among the middlebrow fanciers to have read Beverley Nichols. He is perfect bedtime reading: light, frivolous, witty, of an earlier period so there won't be anything nasty in the woodshed, and unexpectedly moving. I first noticed his existence in a delightfully poisonous parody in Leonard Russell's immortal … Continue reading The shrine of Beverley Nichols: should one worship?
We’re well past the Labour victory in the post-war general election now, heading towards a Conservative revival in 1951. Notable Conservative novelist Angela Thirkell wrote about this period of British history with loathing and resentment. John Lehmann writes about it in his Foreword to this issue in terms of a strong desire to earn a … Continue reading Penguin New Writing 34: Life in 1948