Category Archives: Fiction

Tsitsi Dangarembga’s ‘Nervous Conditions’.

The personal is political, and this wonderful book is both entirely personal and deeply political. Nervous Conditions (1988) is the story of Tambudzai, a young woman growing up in rural Zimbabwe (then known as Rhodesia) in the late 1960’s, told … Continue reading

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‘Unsheltered’ by Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver’s novels are always fascinating and rewarding and her latest, Unsheltered (2019) is no exception. We follow two stories over a hundred years apart and set in the same location; Vineland, New Jersey, a town originally established as a … Continue reading

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‘The Overstory’ by Richard Powers.

Richard Powers is an extraordinary writer. If you’ve not yet discovered his novels, I strongly recommend them. He tackles big ideas which concern all of us while at the same time telling compelling stories about complex and conflicted characters who … Continue reading

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‘What if?’ – dystopias in fiction.

Fictional dystopias use the power of ‘what if?’ to change something or extrapolate particular social or technological trends and imagine the impact on people’s lives. The best ones are also good stories, well told, about people; their hopes, fears, feelings … Continue reading

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The last Corsican.

“I’ve decided to keep this diary because I’m going to die in the next few days…I am condemned because, having refused to be evacuated with the others, I will be annihilated by the incendiary bombs which are systematically ravaging the … Continue reading

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More fictional dystopias

Reading Dystopias offered an introduction to the genre of dystopian fiction through 4 classic dystopian novels. Here are four more which are also well worth reading. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953) [211 pages] Fahrenheit 451: The temperature at which … Continue reading

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‘Carthage’ by Joyce Carol Oates.

Joyce Carol Oates’ brilliant novel ‘Carthage’ carries the reader along on a compelling looping, zig-zag narrative which starts and finishes in the heart of a sympathetic comfortably-off family in the small upstate New York town of Carthage. Along the way, … Continue reading

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Hadrian, the enlightened pre-enlightenment leader?

Marguerite Yourcenar’s wonderful novel Memoirs of Hadrian takes the form of a personal memoir written for the future Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius by the emperor Hadrian (76-138 CE) as he faces death. The book is a brilliant portrayal of a leader who … Continue reading

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Reading dystopias

Reading dystopias Utopia: an imagined society or state of things in which everything is perfect or close to perfect. Dystopia: an imagined society or state of things in which things are very far from perfect to a frightening extent. An … Continue reading

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Gulliver’s levels

Jonathan Swift’s ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, first published in 1726, mocks the travel journals of its day with their increasingly fantastical adventures. It is also brilliant social satire, mercilessly tearing through contemporary conventions and pretentions.   It can also be read as a thought … Continue reading

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Grosse Fugue by Ian Phillips (Alliance Publishing Press, 2012)

This is a story whose outlines are familiar but which we need to hear again and again. The story of Reuben Mendel is a twentieth century biography, a story of both world wars, the holocaust and its aftermath. It is … Continue reading

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