Friday 2 September 2016

Long ago in an English Kindle.

Dead good book
I was on a Virgin Train the other day, and managed to get a seat. In fact the train was nearly empty, which didn't stop just about everyone I saw from making some sort of joke at Jeremy Corbyn or Richard Branson's expense. What a tiresome non-story.

So to flee from the non-story, I read a real story, on my Kindle. Neat segue, right? Paul Cornell's novella Witches of Lychford is a great little book. The small village of Lychford, deep in the English countryside, is divided over the arrival of a new supermarket. Local ladies Judith, Lizzie and Autumn, each with a very different outlook on life, band together to protect their community from both corporate intrusion and... something more.

Paul Cornell has been writing stories about strange goings-on in English villages since the early 90s, when he parked Cheldon Boniface's parish church on the moon during Timewyrm: Revelation. He's created more Anglican vicars than your average bishop. So while he's doing great work with his Severed Streets series, the countryside feels like his natural habitat.

As Judith draws estranged friends Lizzie and Autumn into new worlds, the atmosphere is subdued and wonderfully evocative as Cornell lines up a cast of characters who are fundamentally decent people, brought down by life's burdens. Bereavement, the strain of caring for elderly relatives, the trauma of an abusive relationship. Only one character is entirely beyond redemption here.

Witches of Lychford was published in 2015, almost exactly a year ago. That's the state of my reading list right now. But reading it in post-EU Referendum Britain is to add an almost painful note of contemporary relevance to the book. Images of a society divided against itself, with evil forces seeking to sway a public vote through lies about jobs and economic prosperity... well, it resonates pretty damn hard, I can tell you.

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