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My Month in Books: November 2021

This month I'm looking at two novels, one set in a very ordinary world about "a very ordinary" life, and the other in a fantasy world about far-from-ordinary people. Both Rosalind Murray's The Happy Tree and Naomi Novik's Uprooted weave their own kind of spell... The Happy Tree , Rosalind Murray (Persephone Books 2014, first published 1926) My first reaction to this novel was disappointment. It seemed like just another of those “golden summers before the First World War” books in which posh children have happy childhoods in a lovely big English house only to find sorrow, misery, grief, heart break etc etc when they grow up. All the ingredients of the idyll are there: the house, Yearsly, an eighteenth century mansion with tennis court, walled garden, rose garden, deer park, pavilion, and ponies. It is staffed by butler, cook, nurse, governess and gardeners, all long-serving and contented with their lot (“the servants never changed at Yearsly”). It is inhabit
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My Month in Books: October 2021

Both of the books I've selected this month look at different societies - one imagined in the future, the other real and in the past. For fiction there's Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower , and non-fiction is City of Beasts: How Animals Shaped Georgian London by Thomas Almeroth-Williams. Parable of the Sower , Octavia E Butler (Headline Publishing, 2019, first published 1993) Dystopian fiction is gloomy, isn’t it? Especially when it’s all too horribly believable. Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower posits a world confronting catastrophic climate change; an equality gap which has grown to such proportions that life is a bloody battle between the hungry homeless and the fed and housed who live behind protective walls; a violent drug culture; and privatisation of just about everything. It’s the world you get if racism, inequality, capitalism, fundamentalism, gun culture, and eco crime are allowed to run rampant. Fifteen-year-old Lauren Oya Olamina seems to be the