Category Archives: Books

W. W. Tarn, The Treasure of the Isle of Mist

Here’s a charming oddity: a children’s book published in 1919, written before the outbreak of the Great War by the celebrated classical scholar Sir William Woodthorpe Tarn for the entertainment of his only daughter. In later life his daughter became … Continue reading

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Kazuo Ishiguro, The Buried Giant

Different readers have had different experiences of The Buried Giant (2015), some finding it too crude an allegory, others enraged by its refusal to tell a straight story, still others engrossed and moved by its account of married love and … Continue reading

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Michael Levy and Farah Mendlesohn, Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction

In their new book Michael Levy and Farah Mendlesohn have provided a crucial road map to the rapidly expanding territory of children’s fantasy fiction from the nineteenth century to the present. It’s easy to underestimate the importance of an ‘introduction’ … Continue reading

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Fantasies of Complicity in the Second World War

This essay was first published in the Edinburgh Companion to Twentieth-Century British and American War Literature, ed. Adam Piette and Mark Rawlinson (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012), pp. 516-23. After the bombing of Guernica in April 1937, many novelists of the … Continue reading

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Julie Bertagna, the Exodus Trilogy

Not too surprisingly, literary fantasies of Glasgow are obsessed by the weather. Glasgow is a West Coast city which benefits from the warming influence of the Gulf Stream while enduring a high level of rainfall, as band after band of … Continue reading

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Poetics of Loss: John Masefield’s The Midnight Folk and British Fantasy in the 1920s

The close of the Great War saw an astonishing eruption of fantasy fiction written in English; above all fiction by women, or fiction by men about women, as if the appalling loss of male life in Flanders had thrown the … Continue reading

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Claire North, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and Touch

Last year I was lucky enough to be at the University of Kansas when Claire North, aka Kate Griffin, aka Cat Webb, won the John W Campbell Award for her novel The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. The award … Continue reading

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Paul Kearney, The Wolf in the Attic

Paul Kearney’s new novel draws together a number of familiar threads in contemporary fantasy, but makes something new and beguiling out of them. The plucky heroine, Anna Francis – who turns twelve towards the end of the book and roams … Continue reading

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The Political Imagination: Irish Fantasy Writers and the Easter Rising

I should begin with an explanation. I’m interested in fantasy as a form of history, and I’m writing (very slowly) a book called The Fantastic History of the Twentieth Century. The question at the heart of it is: why did the … Continue reading

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Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!

Terry Pratchett is a craftsman. He takes the mechanics of old stories – fairy tales, legends, fantasies high and low, anecdotes, clichés – and subjects them to careful scrutiny, puzzling over the desires and difficulties that drive them, pondering the … Continue reading

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