In brief: Beyond the Red Wall; The Golden Age of British Short Stories 1890-1914; Inside the Beautiful Inside – reviews

Deborah Mattinson’s report on Labour’s losses is timely, Philip Hensher’s anthology of tales is full of gems and Emily Bullock’s novel is startlingly original

Beyond the Red Wall
Deborah Mattinson

Biteback, £16.99, pp278

If Keir Starmer wants to understand why Labour lost its “red wall” seats at the last election, and how it can even begin to contemplate winning them again, he should read Deborah Mattinson’s timely and fascinating book. Mattinson visited towns in the north of England and the Midlands such as Darlington, Stoke-on-Trent and Accrington and asked their inhabitants why they voted Tory for the first time in 2019. A compelling narrative emerges of millions feeling left behind and forgotten, resentful at the metropolitan elites who took their votes and voices for granted.

The Golden Age of British Short Stories 1890-1914
Edited by Philip Hensher

Penguin Classics, £25, pp607

Philip Hensher’s latest anthology of short stories focuses on the late Victorian and Edwardian era, a time he calls “a remarkable moment in literature and one never likely to be repeated”. Whether or not one agrees with his hyperbole, there are some superb tales in this compilation. Well-known pieces by authors such as Rudyard Kipling, Katherine Mansfield and MR James jostle with more obscure stories by the likes of Israel Zangwill and the hitherto unknown JE Malloch, whose welcome inclusion in a book of this nature justifies its existence.

Inside the Beautiful Inside
Emily Bullock

Everything With Words, £8.99, pp233

Emily Bullock’s startling and poetic second novel explores the miserable predicament of James Norris, a reluctant inmate in the Bethlem insane asylum in the early 19th century. Norris once served with Fletcher Christian, of Bounty mutiny fame, and is given to paranoid delusions that Christian means him harm, even as he endures the grim conditions of the notorious London hospital. Bullock combines horror and brutality with unexpected moments of tenderness and brings a harsh and miserable age to vivid life through the evocation of Norris’s torments and the resilience with which he resists them.

To buy Beyond the Red Wall or The Golden Age of British Short Stories 1890-1914 go to guardianbookshop.com. Free UK p&p over £15

Contributor

Alexander Larman

The GuardianTramp

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