It is ages since I’ve read a Victorian novel and I’ve never read a book by Elizabeth Gaskell. Mary Barton is one of the first industrial novels. It is set in the early days of Manchester’s industrial expansion. However, I was struck by how modern the story is.
Mary is a smitten young working class woman, dreaming of improving her life by the promise of marriage to a richer man. Her life as a seamstress is filled with fashion and gossip. Unlike her father, a union man, she shows little awareness of the structural inequity underpinning her fantasy of escape. As a young, pretty woman she is subject to judgement, through gossip, inter-generational sneering, and her own harsh opinion, when she realises she was looking in the wrong place for happiness. Continue reading →
When I first started this blog I wrote that I wanted to use my reading, cinema viewing, theatre and exhibition visits to help me with understanding the discipline of social policy and my place in the world. This blog aims to be an inter-disciplinary space using culture to understand the practicalities of politics. Helen Dunmore does something similar with her fiction. She asks ordinary people to cope with the dramas of history and politics. For example, The Siege (2001) focuses on the Levin family trapped inside Leningrad while Hitler’s army surrounds the city. The Lie (2014) gives a raw portrayal of a soldier’s return from World War 1. Exposure (2016) examines a marriage under the strain of the Cold War. This novel does something different. The big event is the French Revolution. However, the triumph and horror of the ferocious events of Paris are experienced vicariously as the action of the novel is set in Bristol. Continue reading →
This is my first blog from my holiday reading. Two weeks just South of Barcelona and I know that experience of sun, sight-seeing and family time makes me one of the ‘lucky’ ones. This has been my second jaunt abroad this year, something well out of the reach of many others. An important aspect of a holiday is that it affords me time to read and therefore to consider The Lives of Others. Mukherjee’s title could hardly be more apt for the study of social work and social policy and yet what happens if my reading is so far removed from my experience, can I still really claim to have gained an understanding of the ‘other’? Continue reading →