Category Archives: novels

Sheila Kaye-Smith and the Middlebrow reader

In her 1916 study of John Galsworthy, Sheila Kaye-Smith writes perceptively about the audience for which he was writing. She first defines what she calls the mob-public: The spread of education, with other causes, has brought into being a mob-public, and the approved of the mob-public have a popularity which could hardly have been conceived […]

Christopher Tugendhat’s ‘A History of Britain Through Books: 1900 – 1964’

There’s a recently published book that I’ve been enjoying greatly, so I thought I’d spread the word about it here. It’s A History of Britain Through Books: 1900 – 1964, by Christopher Tugendhat. The author is a collector of modern first editions and, inspired by Neil MacGregor’s excellent History of the World in 100 Objects, […]

What’s the very worst war novel?

The worst WW1 novel? I’d generally be tempted to name one of the really poor twenty-first century efforts, like John Boyne’s The Absolutist, a book which combines an utter confidence in its own self-righteousness with an astonishing disregard for historical actuality. Recently, however, I have read a novel of 1922 which takes the (tasteless and […]

Prime Minister versus Parliament

We currently have a Prime Minister openly at war with most of his Parliament, a situation without precedent in modern British politics. For parallels we need to look abroad, and I’ve recently been reading about Austria in 1916, when the Prime Minister, Count von Stürgkh declared a state of emergency in order to divest the […]

Which Allatini to read?

Since publishing Rose Allatini:A Woman Writer, I’ve been asked by a few people – which Rose Allatini should they read first? The obvious answer is Despised and Rejected (1918), since it’s both in print and a novel of historical significance. Certainly, that’s the right answer for anyone researching the Great War. Yet Despised and Rejected, […]

Zane Grey’s The Desert of Wheat (1919)

Last week I posted rather sceptically about the splurge of moralistic emotion that is Zane Grey’s The Day of the Beast. I said I wouldn’t be reading any more Grey for a while, but then I took a look at his The Desert of Wheat, and I was hooked right away. It’s a much better […]

Zane Grey’s ‘The Day of the Beast’ (1922)

Zane Grey is, of course, very well known as an author of Westerns, but in The Day of the Beast (1922) he deserts the romance of Old West for a topical theme and a deliberately unromantic and stereotypically modern setting: Middleville […] a prosperous and thriving inland town of twenty thousand inhabitants, identical with many […]

Firestep to Fokker Fodder

Not many comprehensive schools possess chapels, but Magdalen College School Brackley, where I taught English for over thirty years, inherited one from the grammar school from which it took over in 1973. During chilly assemblies in the chapel, my attention often wandered to some wooden crosses on the wall. These are ex-students’ crosses from First […]

Writing about Rose

For the past year I’ve been writing about Rose Allatini, and the book is nearly ready for publication. It should be available to buy by the start of June. I’ve called it Rose Allatini: A Woman Writer. Why? Because Olive, the novelist heroine of …Happy Ever After, her first book, declared: ‘I want to be […]

What Helen Zenna Smith did next

It’s good to read someone enthusiastic for Not So Quiet… by ‘Helen Zenna Smith’ (alias Evadne Price). On the Paris Review website, Lucy Scholes makes a strong case for the book (admiring it with fewer reservations than I did in my 2014 paper on Evadne Price and her rather wonderful life of untruths.) Lucy Scholes […]