Category Archives: Reviews

Pies & Prejudice (In Search of the North) ~ Stuart Maconie

The writing of Pies and Prejudice came to fruition when Stuart Maconie, a northerner of the Wigan persuasion, realised that since living in London he had become distinctly… southern. Once shocked to be asked by a southerner if he would go round to her house in his dressing gown and slippers to watch telly and eat cheese off his knee before retiring to bed (what other possible definition could there be for the word supper?), he found himself becoming a connoisseur of sundried tomatoes and cappuccino makers. Perturbed by this turn of events, the former “Woollyback” grabbed his notebook and headed north to rediscover his roots.

Cities from Chester to Scarborough come to life with a nostalgic thrill in this book. As Maconie visits each metropolis, he paints a picture so vivid it’s as if he’s taken you with him and shown you things you might not necessarily have looked at; as well as taking you to places you know and love, and loving them with you. And he does so with such self-deprecating humour that it’s hard not to laugh out loud at times. This is an easy read, a comically uplifting tale of one man’s trip to his homeland and beyond. From the physicality of each place to the history, through informed descriptions of political and emotional conflicts, I found myself nodding in sage agreement and shaking my head in wonder at discovering something new.

The three main effects that this book induced were sheepishness, homesickness and pride. Wigan, of course, was one of the first places Maconie visits on his northern tour and I have to hang my head in shame – to think that all these years I’ve been taking an entirely “southern” view of the place. My only knowledge of Wigan before reading the book had been The Road to Wigan Pier, which, it would seem, is most people’s skewed view of the place. To me it has always seemed grimy, grotty and deprived, hovering around as it does, almost as an afterthought, on blue motorway signs on the edges of my Manc world in a deeply uninviting fashion. Although I have not yet visited Wigan, having only just discovered my error in judgement, I do v.much feel that I now should. In just a few pages, Maconie has managed to convince me that a place I was born 25 miles from, and never had any urge to drop into, has all the sparkle and pizzazz of any of our other beloved northern cities. This is a book for Northerners to learn more about their neighbours and for ignorant southerners who believe that the world is small, flat and shaped like London.

One of the things I’ve come to realise about this book, on reading the copious reviews available all over the web, is that it makes people want to shout about their roots; my last blog post started out its life as this book review before I realised that it was, quite simply, all about me. Reading this book seems to make people recognise that being from the north is ok (nay, preferable) and once that lid is off, the only possible thing to do is shout about it.

And now I’ll sign off, because I’m on my dinner (which is in the middle of the day!)

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Sabbath’s Theatre ~ Philip Roth

Micky Sabbath wants to die…

After losing his beloved mistress to cancer, the protagonist of Philip Roth’s Sabbath’s Theatre finds himself begging for the kindness of old friends when his wife, a newly recovered alcoholic, banishes him from her life and home. Alone in the world, Sabbath wanders aimlessly through the winding back-alleys of his past as he engenders his own demise in the present.

In this ageing, once gorgeous puppeteer with hands so arthritic he is no longer able to perform, Roth has created the ultimate antihero. Womanising, philandering and serial adultery are the bases of this book, and the bases on which Micky Sabbath rests his soul; however, it is hard to dislike a character whose roguish exterior so transparently fronts a world of inner turmoil. And it is this turmoil that turns a book with no sensational storyline into one of the most fascinating, gripping and frank fictional explorations of human sexuality, and the discord it strikes with modern morality. Partially told as snippets of past events, and partially from the modern world Micky finds himself inhabiting, I found that it often went unnoticed when one section of his reality ended and the next stream of consciousness began; and just as often, I was jolted from one of Micky’s daydreams to find myself plunged back into his harsh current life. These non-linear expositions appear, at first, to arrive in Micky’s mind unbidden; however, each dive into the past serves to further elucidate his present conundrum, and adds layer upon layer to the already complex character that is Micky’s Sabbath. Each memory offers an understanding of the position in which he now finds himself, and, with each, our protagonist develops into something so tangibly human.

Perhaps one of the most explicit examples of cause and effect can be found in the section of the book where the physical arrangement of paragraphs lends itself as much to the non-sequential message as the message itself. In this segment, the pages are split in two, with the top half running through the decline of Micky’s second wife, Roseanna, into alcoholism, and the bottom half depicting what, at first, appears to be simply a sexually explicit telephone conversation between Micky and a young woman. As the chapter progresses, it becomes acutely obvious that the top half is driven by the bottom, and the events of the top story cause a sense of trepidation as the lower story unfolds.

Addressing the crude human drive for sexuality is what Roth is best known for, and there is no shortage of sex in this book. However, rather than erotic, these scenes rather clinically highlight the ridiculous; somehow creating a familiar feeling akin to that of la petit mort, without ever giving us the satisfaction of the initial guilty pleasure. It serves as a reminder that we are reading of a man who has allowed his absurd animal desire for sexual gratification to become his downfall. In this way, we are invited to see and understand his appetites, but not to partake in them. That is not to say that Roth has no aptitude for erotica: arguably the most arousing scene in the book sees Roseanna, alone in her home, free from alcohol, free from the shackles of her bad marriage, masturbating in her living room. She has not escaped the base cravings, but she controls them, and Micky can only look on from the outside.

This novel is page after poignant page of Micky’s need and inability to kill himself. He feels the ghost of his dead mother, floating above him, watching and judging his every depraved act. He so cherished this woman who caused in him his incurable self-loathing by having him always play second fiddle to his older brother, even after his brother is killed in the war, a shock from which neither Micky nor his mother ever recover. Time and again, he teeters on the brink of suicide, only to find another insignificant and finite reason to live for just that moment, which, once past, leaves him all the more wretched. Perhaps the most piteous thing is that Micky seems destined to live after all.

As devilishly humourous as it is dark, Sabbath’s Theatre managed to put me into a trance-like state, only for me to return to the here and now, dazed, with engulfing thoughts whizzing around my head in swarms. Despite its general unpopularity among women, I was only able to see in Sabbath’s Theatre a man who loves women; loves and respects them enough to not patronisingly load every sexual experience with meaning. That said, to be offended by a character so exquisitely written, so well rounded and believable, on the grounds of his breaking some inner moral code seems to me illogical anyway, even if… no, especially if the character is so contemptible as to have the ability to enrage. After all, is that not just good writing? This book is far from offensive; it is grotesquely beautiful and searingly honest, and to deny its impact would be unjustifiable.



Delta of Venus ~ Anaïs Nin

Civilisation and its Discontents ~ Sigmund Freud

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The Women’s Room ~ Marilyn French

If The Golden Notebook slapped me in the face, Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room positively knocked me for six. If there was ever a fictionalised version of The Female Eunuch, this is it.

And it was the Female Eunuch that reminded me of the book’s existence. Once recommended as A Book at Bedtime on Radio 4, it was soon forgotten due to the unsociable hours I keep. I had no concept of the missed opportunity at the time, but then I had no concept of the issues broached in the book either; nor of the connection and, for want of a better word, oneness that I would find in its storyline. From a gentle beginning, I was suddenly plunged into a world from which I drew many parallels with my own, and as I turned the last page with tears in my eyes, all the hairs stood up on the backs of my arms. It’s not often you can say that about a novel, but I related to it so deeply.

Mira Ward is going back to college; a middle aged, divorced mother of two young boys. Considered a wild child in her teens, Mira narrowly escapes being raped by a group of men after having the audacity to be an unaccompanied female in a bar. In the years subsequent to this, she finally (still a virgin) marries the only man who can see past her bad reputation as a nymphomaniac and begins a family, as is expected of her and, indeed, of all women. Having dedicated 25 years of her life to a loveless marriage, the seemingly static pieces of Mira’s world are thrown up into the air when her husband leaves her for a younger woman, taking her two children with him. In an era when a husband provided financial security and acceptance into society, Mira flees from suburbia to Cambridge College where she meets a number of remarkable women who change her life and perceptions forever.

I found the first part of the book slightly harder to connect with because of the time in which it was written; it focuses on the aspect of traditional marriage and, whilst some elements are undoubtedly still relevant, some of the more archaic traditions have decayed from modern society somewhat. However, this doesn’t detract from the book’s relevance as a whole. After all, the fabled nuclear family is still v.much the life-goal for most people and this starting-point creates the foundations for the female struggle that Mira finds herself embarking on. As a character, Mira represents the incredulous masses; yet through her own experiences and those of the other female characters, with a lot of wisdom and advice, she is finally able to understand the social imbalance and strike out as a whole person in her own right.

I often think it cheesy when the title of the book is found in the text of the literature, and the title of this book is found within the first paragraph. It is, however, utterly forgivable since the title epitomises the v.point that the book is trying to make. The Women’s Room. Formerly The Ladies’ Room. The female toilets in a college in the late ‘60s (a time when feminism was beginning to murmur and bubble under the surface once more) has been rechristened by an anonymous graffiti artist. And if men have the Men’s Toilets, why on earth shouldn’t women have the Women’s Toilets? To call it The Ladies’ Room suggests that little ladies do far more delicate things in there than men… like powdering their noses. It’s a pedantic point to make, but it is v.much the tip of the feminist iceberg that Marilyn French explores with this narrative. Ranging from the presumptuous invasion of a stranger touching a woman at a social gathering, to the intricacies and complications surrounding a rape case; from marriage in the ‘50s and 60s to open relationships, The Women’s Room indefatigably and unflinchingly presents question after question on the subject of equality, the frustrations of bureaucracy and the seemingly endless instances of oppression and obligation faced by women on a daily basis. No matter how small the obstacle, how meagre the offence, French shows that every little helps in the ongoing battle for women’s position in society.

Thought-provoking rather than gripping; a book that certainly takes itself seriously, and well it might for the importance of a struggle that has raged for decades, The Women’s Room takes a bold and vital step towards equality and its inevitabloe rejections and conflicts. That I drew so many parallels to my own life, as a privileged child of the ‘80s, only reminded me that it is a trap to believe that society has reached sexual equilibrium. But whether you are ready to fight for or settle with this western society, this is a book that undeniably poses questions that are not often considered, and its answers, equally as provocative, stem from all sides of the spectrum.

A must read for feminists and femphobes alike!




Revolutionary Road ~ Richard Yates

The Bell ~ Iris Murdoch



Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe

Stepford Wives

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The Female Eunuch ~ Germaine Greer

Until recently, The Female Eunuch wasn’t even lurking, War and Peace style, in my reading pipeline. Nobody had ever suggested that I read it, Amazon included, and it just never seemed to home into view, so to speak, though I’ve always been a fan of Germaine Greer. It was actually a Guardian article, The Female Eunuch 40 Years On, that made my little grey cells prick up thoughtfully and, on a whim, I finished said article and instantly bought a second hand copy of the 1970 edition online. And once I started to cart the book around with me, I realised that it was no wonder it had never been recommended. Not because it is unrecommendable (far from it!), but rather because of the peculiar reactions it produced in people. I got sneers, raised eyebrows; ultimately looks of disgust with… what was that flickering… was that… it couldn’t be… could it? Yes, it could. It was fear! People were afraid of this book. What made it all the more bizarre is that I couldn’t find a single person who’d actually read it and when I asked any of the fearful what they thought it was about, they just said something along the lines of “man hating, feminist nonsense,” and the sentiment was almost certainly followed by “I can’t stand Germaine Greer.”

What I discovered in the first few pages of this book was life changing. Not in the sense that it opened my eyes to a new way of thinking, but that it corresponded, almost exactly, with what I’d spent my life being told was a weird perspective on life. I was wrapt. For once, someone other than my mother was in agreement and it felt like a homecoming. I was a feminist by default, not design, it would seem.

I haven’t felt this way about a book since Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook. Erudite, witty, insightful and delightful, this book should be every woman’s bible. The anger and force of a strong writer pervades throughout, but this is not merely about slating the male. In fact, Greer’s points are often as sympathetic to the man as to the woman, which is particularly pronounced in her denunciation of the way we are brought up to believe women the fairer sex; feeble creatures who should be treated like glass dolls to be looked after like possessions. As Greer rightly questions: what man wouldn’t be grateful to have the burden of being the protector lifted from his shoulders? In addition, when the question of female superiority is raised, Greer highly criticises women’s lib’ groups who attempt to elevate themselves above men, deeming them childish. These groups are, in her eyes, one of the reasons feminists have a bad reputation amongst the male population.

From burning witches to burning bras, The Female Eunuch is a history lesson on the lives of women, female liberation, the suffragette movement and the shortfall of western society. The inefficiency of our social order is Greer’s main bugbear, as it is mine. But, like anything that threatens to drastically change our way of life, it brings about a fear. Fear of disruption, fear of revolution, fear of change and the uprooting of the comfortable morals we lazily live by.

Of course, every person is different and not every point rang true for me. The unforeseen pooh-poohing of female ejaculation made me positively cross, since, without going into too much detail, I know for a fact that it is not a myth*. And, what with it being written some forty years ago, some sections are slightly outdated or irrelevant. It all added to the charm as I found myself comparing the life of the ‘70s woman to the woman in patriarchal society today and I put the book down and instantly wanted to know how Greer felt these days. Luckily for me, she has written another book: The Whole Woman.

Fiercely interesting from beginning to end, this book hit no lulls. Germaine Greer concisely presents the problem as she sees it, the history, the facts and the solution; a rational and shrewd theory of how society ought to be broken down and rebuilt on an equal footing.



* If you e-mail me nicely, I might explain



The Women’s Room ~ Marilyn French

The Golden Notebook ~ Doris Lessing

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Clock Without Hands – Carson McCullers

The year is 1953 and the USA is going through some changes. In the Deep South in a town called Milan, the abolition of slavery has brought about much confusion: a black man can go unnoticed in a white church, the price of keeping a servant has gone through the roof, mixed race children have started to populate the streets, employees are expected to pay income tax…

In this progressive, ever shifting clime, J. T. Malone has just months to live. A wishy-washy, malleable, middle-aged pharmacist adhering to a routine that hasn’t changes in decades, he muses over his life and its shortcomings; resenting his wife for her success, he questions the fate brought about by his supposed leukaemia, while his good friend, the once charismatic Judge Fox Clane, vehemently opposes the diagnosis. But looming death can change a person and Malone slowly begins to question the Judge’s judgements. Meanwhile, Fox Clane is having problems of his own: his grandson, Jester, offspring of his late son, has become obsessed with his amanuensis, the blue-eyed “nigra,” Sherman, who is tolerated in such capacity for once saving Clane’s life.

From the moment Malone bumps into Sherman on the street, the undertone of the novella changes, although the reader cannot be sure why at such an early stage. In Sherman, Malone senses danger. In Sherman, Carson McCullers elegantly presents the core issue of the story: the inevitable meshing of black and white and the subsequent knee-jerk reactions. And Sherman is angry. An orphan found on a church pew, he can only assume that his black mother was raped by a white man and, too ashamed to admit it, left him to fend for himself. After running away from an abusive white family, he spends his life searching for the woman who may be his mother, even writing to a famous singer in the hope of being reunited with the source of his black roots. But things are not always as they seem and the novel provides one speculation after another as to the history of Sherman’s parentage, each time leading to a dead end.

That the judge and Sherman are linked in more ways than one is evident, but the prior association is only hinted at throughout as the story dips in and out of the psyche of each character. We know that the judge’s son committed suicide on Christmas day some years previous, which Clane passes off as a random brainstorm. We know that he did so because he couldn’t stand his father’s racist views with particular reference to Sherman’s mother. And it becomes plain that with the Judge’s ingrained bigotry and Sherman’s volatility, this placid connection cannot end happily. The loose ends do finally come together in one emotional, violent culmination.

As in life, there is no black and white in this book – no “goodies” or “baddies” – which adds a roundness and depth. The Judge, his arrogance and prejudices aside, is nothing more than a weak old man in denial; forlorn after the death of his beloved wife, he finds himself in a constant state of remoteness, to which he refuses to admit even to himself. Sherman is damaged goods: abandoned and mistreated, he rails against society and the friendship so eagerly offered to him by Jester. And Jester, himself an orphan, sees in Sherman a wonderful escape from the lifestyle he is used to; he is fascinated by Sherman and senses also the enigmatic link to the dead father he knows nothing about. Each character’s loneliness is created by distinct situations and each is bonded to the next in hatred or in love.

It’s not often that I shed a tear at a book and it was only unfortunate that I was sitting at my desk at work with a mouthful of sushi when I reached the end. However, I do fail to see how anyone could read Clock Without Hands and not get emotional. In such a small volume, McCullers manages to engage the reader, telling a tale with equal elements of hope and despair.


Carson McCullers deserves a review of her own. She was a remarkable woman who suffered strokes from an early age. At the age of 31 she had a stroke that left her almost paralysed. From that moment on, she was only able to type with one finger. She went on to publish several novels, living until her untimely death at the age of 50.


Ragtime ~ E. L. Doctorow
The Secret Life of Bees ~ Sue Monk Kidd
Beloved ~ Toni Morrison

To Kill a Mockingbird ~ Harper Lee

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Things that go Bump in My Mind – Part I: The Auld Reekie Tour

It’s something that’s always fascinated me: the supernatural. As a child, when asked to draw a picture, my subject matter would almost certainly be a graveyard or a spooky house in the woods or a vampire (a beautiful lady vamp’ – with flowing red hair, of course… and generally a mass of curls*). And my patient mother, ever one to let me find my own way in life, would dutifully display these macabre pictures in prominent places in the house, never letting on that she was remotely concerned about my mental state.

Edinburgh is the perfect place to visit around autumn time. It’s a gothic city full of dark corners and pokey ginnels and underground snickets and wide cobbled streets with wild wind whipping up a storm all around. And there are ghost walks galore! Ghost walks with gimmicks or without, underground, overground wandering hither and thither, including into the depths of the city dungeons.

The Auld Reekie Ghost and Torture Tour begins at the Tron Kirk and takes you around and into the South Bridge Vaults. The last time I did the dungeon tour, I was with a boy, which for some reason turned me into a pathetic little creature who kept hiding in his coat like a startled guinea pig at all the scary parts… which in retrospect is rather embarrassing and quite out of character. I guess it proves the skill with which the ghostly guides whip up the crowd and create a really quite edgy atmosphere. This time, however, I was with a group of girlies. A group of squealing girlies. It was hilarious. Feeling particularly smug that I already knew what to expect, I waited for the moment when we were taken to the dungeon with the mad beastie spirit who’s trapped in the Wiccan ring of rocks. And then I stepped into it with side-(and ear-)splitting results from my accompanying hens.

Half an hour later, we were safely ensconced in a reputedly haunted pub with comforting pints of ale, discussing who was going to share a room with me now I’d picked up this evil spirit and what the hell was I thinking, mad woman?! I just sat there grinning as I sent the following text:

“I shall be returning to Leeds w/an evil ghost in tow! I only went & did it, didn’t I. I only fucking stepped in the ring!”

You see, even the boy hadn’t had the nerve, so dark and creepy are the vaults, and so convincing the tour guides.

After it was decided that Sam would remain the unlucky room-mate, conversation turned to chilling stories of our sinister past experiences and stories we’d heard as scuttlebutt. All of which, including my own, I proceeded to knock down with fairly logical explanations in my present superior fash’.

It was only when I found myself in the toilets of said haunted pub, which were at the top of a winding set of stairs, rather dark and devoid of other pub-dwellers, that my already overactive imagination began to churn. Ever since I saw one particular episode of Round the Twist as a youngster, I have had an inane fear of toilets**; they’re creepy places full of hidey holes. What started as a grain of doubt in my mind had swelled by the time I was pulling my kecks up. Toilet doors squeaked, chill drafts blew; for all my bravado, I was still that self same shaking little guinea pig. I fairly threw the soap on my hands and dashed out of the door, without looking in the mirror in case I saw something nasty in a cubicle behind me. At the top of the stairs, still fleeing from my imaginary phantom, I caught a stiletto on a step and somehow managed to slide ungracefully to the bottom of the stairs bellowing: “It pushed me, it pushed me!” at the bewildered El Kitten, our beloved queen hen, who just happened to be preparing for ascent. She said, wrinkling her nose:

“Yeah, I fell down them earlier…”

I’ve been a tad jumpy since then.

Classic FM eases me into my day, as a general rule, so when my alarm went off this morning, I lay coaxing myself awake to Airs Espagnols Opus 18 by Pablo de Sarasate***, while half-waking terrifying thoughts flickered across my mind. When the piece finished, nothing happened; just an unexpected silence – no presenter, no music, nothing. I sat up in bed and looked fearfully at my alarm clock. Nothing. And then there was loud white noise with voices babbling in the background. I shot out of bed, turned the radio off and stood, panting and desperately clutching my left arm, down which a pain had just shot.

Shit! I thought****. Shit shit shit! It’s trying to communicate with me!

I tentatively turned the radio back on and was more than a little relieved to hear the comforting tones of Nick Bailey. I jumped into my running gear and ran, scared and unstretched, into the dark morning chill†. For once, I felt safer running around Leeds in the dark than being cozy at home with my yoga mat.

So far, further strange happenings involve getting an electric shock from a tap (I was shuffling my feet), something small and hard rattling around in my kitchen (am pretty sure the mice are back), a wasp at the window with a face like a skull (think wasps’ faces are like that anyway), the kettle turning itself off mid-boil (wouldn’t have noticed anything weird about that under normal circs) and some canisters exploding in the building site in which I work, which set the building on fire (far less dramatic than it sounds).

I realise that as a grown woman… yes, this is as tall as I’m going to get, folks… this is all v.silly, but my head is a v.v.strange place indeed and it may be some time before I’m back to normal. Or as normal as it’s possible for me to be.

However, despite my subsequent madness, I highly recommend that you a) visit Edinburgh if you’ve never been and b) take a tour.

Auld Reekie Tours can be found on the Royal Mile and run at various intervals throughout the day most days. Tours are £9.50 for adults and £7.50 for concessions and are conducted by young acting scots in gothic clothing, ending with a complimentary shot of scotch and a piece of shortbread.

Please be aware that some tours are for over 18s only.


* Wishful thinking

** This should not be confused with the toilet phobia that renders me incapable of peeing when within 100 yards of another individual

*** I had to look this up, but it’s such a beautiful piece of music, I would have had to look it up anyway.

**** Normally I just talk to myself out loud, but I didn’t want my beastie to know I was on to it.

† Part of me just wants to turn this into a fictional ghost story now, but I’m trying to prove to myself that I’m being ridiculous with this blog post, not scare myself silly.

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Poison for Teacher – Nancy Spain

There’s a rural girls’ school, an assortment of bizarre characters, a murdered teacher and, of course, a play. It can only be a Nancy Spain whodunit.

Miriam Birdseye is as poised as ever; this time she’s prepared to take on the role of Elocution tutor at Radcliff Hall, right down to the clothes that she wears and her part in the school play. Engaged by the mannish and eccentric Miss Lipscoombe as an unlikely body-guarding service, Birdseye &co. set out for Brunton on Sea disguised as teachers, where all sorts of tomfoolery is afoot.

Radcliff Hall is an old-fashioned girls’ grammar in the county of Sussex. Recently deserted by the enterprising Miss bbirch, the school has turned to bedlam at the hands of one very bored traitor, and it is Birdseye &co’s responsibility to sniff this conspirator out. But it is only during a rehearsal of the school play, Quality Street, that the mischief turns sinister and the prankster finds herself the prankstee. Ex-actress and contemporary private detective, Miriam Birdseye (along with her partner in anticrime, Russian ex-ballerina, Natasha Du Vivian*), is the perfect candidate for investigating the murder of Radcliff Hall’s French teacher, the spiteful Miss Devaloys. But will she expose the murderer before s/he strikes again?

Poison for Teacher would never win the Booker, but, whether you catch on or not, between its sheets, Spain has raised a staunch eyebrow at the society in which she lived. Let’s take one reference from many; the most obvious: Radcliff Hall… otherwise known as Radclyffe Hall, one of the literary world’s most well-known lesbian writers. Not overtly sexual in tone, the underlying themes of homosexuality surface in Pukey, the bumbling Classics teacher, and her too-close interest in Gwylan Fork-Thomas, the elegant Chemistry mistress. It is also latent in the schoolgirls and their adolescent crushes on their tutors, and even in the relationship between Miriam and her partner, the recently separated “Darling Natasha”, who has no wish to be found by her dashing and brilliant husband, no matter how hard he searches.

The question of bigotry hangs over this novel and prevented its republication prior to its being picked up by Lesbian Landmarks in 1979. As well as Spain’s not so complementary portrayal of the only overtly gay character in the book, Roger Partick-Thistle**, there is the “woolly-haired”, “dusky-skinned” and butch Miss Lesarium and the small-boned, “oriental” Jew. It would be easy to get on a high horse about these references, but only if they were to be taken out of context. Spain, being a lesbian and one that openly cohabited with a figure as public as herself, Joan Werner Laurie***, could only be attempting to create a story as a wry outsider inside a society that had pressured her to feign a public relationship with Gilbert Harding. Spain was writing as a writer who would be accepted and published, whilst still imparting a nod to the minorities. Radcliff Hall clearly represents Roedean, Spain’s own girls’ school from the same coastline; and the characters’ bigoted opinions, that of Roedean’s inhabitants.

Poison for Teacher is light-hearted entertainment. With a writing style somewhere between Wodehouse and Christie and not dissimilar to Pamela Branch, Spain delivers homicide with as much humour as she would farce. Witty, satirical and regrettably forgettable, this book would never be hailed for its literary content; however, I put it down feeling cheered and slightly mischievous with not a grisly thought in my head. Tongue-in-cheek and gentle, this novel of murder most horrid, is a surefire pick-me-up that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, but ultimately unmoved.


* nee Nevkorina

** You’ll recognise him as the screaming queen

*** The creator of SHE Magazine


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