MARINA WARNER (Tavistock: Northcote House, 2006)

Marina Warner is such a widely celebrated writer that it is a source of some wonderment that this is the first full-length study of her work. Perhaps that is because she is so hard to characterise. For example, she is an English writer yet she has an international perspective on her country. Also,  she is a novelist who is rooted in traditional forms such as myth and fairy tale yet who is wholly contemporary in her thinking.  Again, her vision is secular, yet in both her critical and creative writing she returns again and again to the idea of the sacred or supernatural.  Above all, she has an equally strong sense of myth and of history, their interaction being the basis of her fiction and the focus of her scholarship. In sum, she is a wonderfully ambitious and challenging writer whose contribution has yet to be assessed. What is required now is a systematic survey of her oeuvre, book by book: this latest volume in the ‘Writers and their Work’ series is written to supply this need.

The first study of this contemporary novelist and cultural historian, this book explores the structure and symbolism of her fiction, and demonstrates the connection between her various reflections on the question of female representation, on fairy tales and horror, and above all  on myth and history.

Marina Warner is informed by my conviction that myths are not fixed in stone but are constantly open to re-reading and re-telling. Warner has, of course, shown how both can be done: through works of cultural history such as Managing Monsters and through novels such as Indigo.

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