Well, although I’m not up to books actually unpacked or received on Christmas Day, I am up to 08 December when the BookCrossing Birmingham group had our Christmas do and Not So Secret Santa. The lovely Lorraine drew me and bought me two fine older books from my wishlist, this one and “The Nesbit Tradition”, which I’m currently reading. See a pic of all my Christmas acquisitions here – I have read a few of them already during 20 Books of Summer and All Virago All August, so not too many to get through before this Christmas …

Mary Webb – “Gone to Earth”

(8 December 2017 – from Lorraine)

This novel, with its classic Webb themes of the goodness of nature, its destruction by industry and the ownership of women by men, is unfortunately a bit of a distressing read. We meet Hazel, child of nature, Shropshire of accent, and her fox cub, Foxy, and alarm bells of course begin to ring … as well as (very anti-) foxhunting scenes (we don’t see anything happen in detail but Hazel’s vivid imagination is enough) there’s a wholesale slaughter of songbirds but a man who has seemed a sort of ally but has twisted virginity and love of the land into something very wrong. There’s a love triangle and one man who pushes his nature down and shouldn’t do (reading that Hazel would have loved him if she’d thought him likely to strike her / he was willing to basically pretty well rape her) and one man who lets his nature run free and shouldn’t do (and does both these things though does feel a bit bad about them). There are some lovely scenes but it’s all full of foreboding (yes, Stella Gibbons fans, it’s a bit something-in-the-woodsheddy) and where I have loved her other books for their imagery and beauty, this one was A Bit Much. Mysticism and real-life oppression make this a heady melodrama that is never going to end happily.

I will continue on to read the last one of hers, but this one is not for the fainthearted!


As I mentioned, currently reading “The Nesbit Tradition” though I will be starting my next Iris Murdoch tomorrow. The book on children’s books 1945-75 is a glorious procession through both well-known British and less well-known non-British writers and is wonderful.