It’s funny how very often pondering one thing will lead on to quite another. Recently I was thinking about how much great English literature has been written by women – novels in particular. I don’t mean the oh-so-sensitive Jane Austin or the bodice-rippers of the Bronte sisters, but rather women who wrote wonderful books but didn’t avoid the harsh social and political realities of the times in which they lived or about which they wrote. Women such as Elizabeth Gaskell, George Elliot and Mary Shelley, there are many more. One of my own favourites was Mary Webb.
Mary Webb was a Shropshire writer and she beautifully evokes a sense of place. In her last novel, Precious Bane (1924), set at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, that place is Sarn Mere. It is a fictitious village on a small lake (‘mere’) in the flatlands of northern Shropshire:
There’s a discouragement…
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