In 1933, the same year Hitler came to power in Germany, a young man decided to travel by foot across Europe. This is the story of A Time of Gifts, by Patrick Leigh Fermor, which I have just reviewed in Albion Magazine. Head over and take a look for this glimpse of a past Europe, just before it was plunged into the Second World War.
When I was a young teen, I spent my baby-sitting money on books by Joan Aiken, one of the most prolific and imaginative young adult writers of the last century. Rollicking adventures set in an alternate version of the eighteenth, they were by turns silly, scary, and subversive, with brave, intelligent, young characters. I just wrote a review of Aiken’s series The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, which you can read at the excellent Albion Magazine.
The lovely online Albion Magazine has just published my review of Rumer Godden’s 1955 novel An Episode of Sparrows, about children planting a garden in the rubble of bombed London. The book was also made into a film called Innocent Sinners, starring talented child actress June Archer, which you can find on YouTube. Both the book and the movie have some uncomfortable and sad moments, but the overall message is one of irrepressible life. You can read the full review here.
Last fall I went to a fascinating stage adaptation of Orwell’s novel 1984. I never loved the novel as a teenager, but in my twenties I discovered Orwell’s non-fiction—Homage to Catalonia, Down and Out in Paris and London, and I haven’t yet managed The Road to Wigan Pier, but it is climbing my to-be-read pile—and every one of them blew my mind. This production at Théâtre du Trident in Québec City seemed like the perfect chance to tackle the classic dystopia once again, and see if I’d grown up enough to enjoy it. To add the experience, I’d just finished a stint as lighting technician for Quebec Art Company’s production of La Cage aux Folles, which involved a lot of on-the-job learning for me. Lessons such as: I really should have memorized those formulas for converting between amps, volts and watts from first-year physics, and electrocution is no fun. So, going to see 1984 also meant relaxing into a safe comfortable seat and watching a professional take over.
Then I pitched the idea of writing a review to my dear friend and editor at Albion Magazine, and she did her usual brilliant job putting out this winter’s issue. The full review can be read here.
My essay about the early detective novels of Dorothy L. Sayers has just appeared in Albion Magazine. You can go read it here. A lot has been written about Dorothy Sayers’ feminism, and quite rightly so, but I wanted to look at how this feminism intersected with ideas of class and the economic realities between the wars. Since I’m Canadian and know very little about the British class system, I am infinitely indebted to the editor for helping me not to say anything silly.
I also discovered that an article I wrote for the World Wildlife Fund about climate change and microscopic organisms is still available online here. Have a glimpse of my day-job, distilled (I hope) for the general non-scientist public.
It isn’t my usual fictional fare, but for those who like to read book reviews (often easier than reading the actual book!) you can go find out what I thought about Laurie Lee’s As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning here. I was invited to write this review by the editor of Albion Magazine, which I would recommend to anyone who thinks there must be more to English culture than upper-class families fretting about their ancestral manor houses.
Meanwhile, I’ve also posted my short story “The Seal Trainer”, which was formerly on my livejournal. It’s nearly pure silliness, although my best friend has assured me that it “speaks to her soul”—which makes me worry sometimes about her mental state.