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Reviews British Women Writers 1910-60s: the 'middlebrows' Previous Recommended Reading

(Previous non-fiction)
Fiction (mostly)
(Previous fiction)


Have been posting, if rather intermittently, book reports on my more academic reading over at my blog, though over the past year or so having rather been slipping on doing this because of other pressures. So include a few more academic works here.

Rani Sircar, Strains in a Minor Key: A Celebration of Sixty Years in Calcutta (Kolkata: Gangchil, 2013) - by the author of Dancing Round the Maypole, previously recommended. A wonderful evocation of past times and changing times and the strange syncopations of social change within a particular milieu, recapturing a vanishing or already vanished history. Can be acquired from the publishers or from a bookseller who takes foreign currency directly and has experience of sending work abroad: Ram Advani Letters/email to the latter should be marked "Attention Mrs Ruth Shepherd", and stress that the bookseller should check that the volumes are not defective with duplicated pages or pages printed in the wrong order, since some volumes have been found to be flawed in this way. The address is Mayfair Building, Hazratganj, GPO Box 154, Lucknow, U.P. 226 001, India. They will take U.S. and U.K., crossed cheques by post without charging any bank fees for conversion of foreign currency.

Julia Jones, The Adventures of Margery Allingham (2nd edition 2009). An extremely readable account of this writer, though 'adventures' is not perhaps the way I'd describe a life dedicated to literary production (a lot of hackwork over the years as well as her esteemed Albert Campion mysteries/thrillers), and the life was perhaps rather sad, with inadequately diagnosed health problems and domestic disharmony.

Angela V John, Turning The Tide: The Life of Lady Rhondda (2013). Excellent and solidly contextualised biography of this multi-faceted woman, her diverse activities and her relationships.

Rachel Cooke's Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties (2013). A beautifully complex and evenhanded account of some achieving women of a decade normally thought to be all about the back to domesticity and handmaidenhood.

Annamarie Jagose, Orgasmology (2013) - very, very good, with lots of pleasing jolts to one's perceptions. While I may possibly have skimmed some of the more densely theoretical passages, it is useful critical work on sexuality and had a nicely snarky tone about received wisdom.

Carol Dyhouse, Girl Trouble: Panic and Progress in the History of Young Women (2013). A wonderfully well-documented, and engagingly written overview of the persistent construction throughout the C20th that the modern girl and her ways signify the end of civilisation as we know it, contrasted with the actuality of the case.

Gail Godwin's The Making of a Writer: Volume 2: Journals, 1963-1969 (2011): perhaps not quite so compelling as the first volume, but still a remarkably riveting read. Intriguing overlaps with her novel The Perfectionists (1971)

Rude Food: The Collected Food Writings of Vir Sanghi (2004): a bit mixed as one might expect a collection of newspaper/periodical columns to be, but some really fascinating stuff about international culinary exchanges, and an intriguing perspective.

Winifred Holtby, Letters to A Friend (1937). I'm not sure it's possible to love Winifred Holtby any more than I already did, but these - letters to her friend Jean McWilliam, teaching in South Africa - were lovely.


Fiction (mostly)

Re-reads after quite a long hiatus of two of EM Delafield's lesser-known novels, Tension (1921) and Mrs Harter (1924), which are very good indeed in their analysis of small communities and the impact of an incomer.

Melina Marchetta, Looking for Alibrandi (1992). A YA novel set in contemporary Sydney - just as compelling a read as her fantasy and with the same attentiveness to different groups and their differing ways, and their interactions.

Philip Hensher, The Northern Clemency (2008) - took me a while to get into this properly, but it repaid the effort amply. A novel of provincial life and two families through the dimensions of time and change in the mid to late C20th.

Michel Faber, The Book of Strange New Things (2014). Thought-provoking science fiction, compellingly readable, almost tactile worldbuilding.

Katherine Addison (who also writes as Sarah Monette), The Goblin Emperor (2014). This is a wonderful, wonderful book, possibly even surpassing Monette's 'Doctrine of Labyrinths' sequence and her stories of Kyle Murchison Booth, though in a different register. It makes a good person who tries to do do the right thing even at personal cost the central character and makes that interesting. Once I'd finished it I immediately re-read it, because I didn't want to emerge from the world and characters created there.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Thing Around Your Neck (2009) - stunning short stories.

(Considering that much of my reading over the past months has been the 121 contenders for the Arthur C Clarke Award 2014, which I am not listing here, I got through a good deal more than I thought.)

Veronica Schanoes, The Burning Girls (2013), Short, but packs a punch well above its weight, with a well-wrought combination of folklore and the Jewish immigrant experience in early C20th New York

Lia Silver, Laura's Wolf (2014) - another thing off my usual track, I am not usually much for erotic romance with werewolves, but this was a really good read, well-written with solid characters.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus (2004) which had been sitting on my to-read pile for a while: really gripping study of a Nigerian Catholic convert family and its dynamics. Also her Half of a Yellow Sun (2007), which had a broader sweep from the early days of Nigerian independence to the Biafran war, but an equally compelling read.

Sefi Atta, A bit of difference (2012). I really enjoyed this - it doesn't have much in the way of plot, and what there is feels as if it is playing with conventional plot expectations for novels about women, just as she is undercutting cliche expectations of novels about Nigerians

Jo Walton, What Makes This Book So Great: Re-Reading the Classics of Fantasy and SF (2014), which was a collection of short essays on books and reading that I tried to save as ebook reading for waiting rooms and brief journeys but couldn't resist giving more concentrated time to.

Nicola Griffith, Hild (2013). A beautifully rich and dense evocation of the early life of Hild of Whitby, a wonderful recreation of a time and place - Britain in the C7th - and the way these bore upon individuals.

Barbara Hambly, Kindred of Darkness (2014). Hambly seldoms falls below her standard of excellence, and this series just keeps on getting better. I also ingested the most recent 'Further Adventures' short stories obtainable via her website

Sara Paretsky, Critical Mass (2013). Paretsky and VI Warshawski very much on form, with the additional pleasure for me of a plot that revolves around an Austrian Jewish female physicist forced to work for the Nazis.

Margaret Drabble, The Pure Gold Baby (2013). Reminded me of just how much I love Drabble's novels.

Ankaret Wells, Heavy Ice (2013), such an awesome book, at least, one that rings so many of my personal bells for really great science fiction of the sort we currently see too little of. Great characters, great world-building, complex cultures and relationships, wonderful narrative verve.

Roz Kaveney, Rhapsody of Blood: Reflections (2013). So, so good a sequel to Rituals; such, such a terrible cliffhangery ending, when is the next volume coming along?

Terry A Adams, Battleground (2013) - long-awaited sequel to her much earlier Sentience (1986) and The Master of Chaos (1989) now republished in an omnibus - grim but good, and the sort of science fiction that I have come across too little of in recent years

Rebecca Tregaron, Angel in the Attic (2013): first installment of a serial novel that managed to overcome my usual qualms about urban fantasy featuring werewolves, angels, etc - great fun and intriguing characters and plot, looking forward to next installment.

Kij Johnson, At the Mouth of the River of Bees (2012) - a collection of short stories which kept up the haunting quality throughout.

Megan Abbott, Dare Me (2012). An intense blend of noir with the highschool novel - noir cheerleaders. The real strength of the book I thought was its focus on young women doing something both physically arduous and taxing yet coded as hyperfeminine.

Reviews British Women Writers 1910-60s: the 'middlebrows' Previous Recommended Reading: non fiction Previous Recommended Reading: fiction

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Last modified 8 April 2015