Book Review: Jane Austen and Shelley in the Garden by Janet Todd @Jan_Todd

Jane Austen and Shelley in the Garden
Janet Todd
Fentum Press, September 2021
ISBN 978-1-909572-270
Trade Paperback

Fran is a retired professor of English literature, living in a cottage in Norfolk, and considering what to do next. Will she write a memoir or travel? Fran is joined by the ever present ghost of Jane Austen, who feels she must comment on everything from Fran’s teaching methods, to gardening, family matters, and relationships. Fran’s friends—Annie, Rachel, Thomas, and Tamsin—decide to take a trip to Wales and Venice to visit places of importance to the poet Percey Bysshe Shelley. Of course, the ghost of Jane Austen is along for the ride.

I don’t know enough about the life of Shelley and English literature to understand all the witticisms that were in this book. Even with watching a lot of BBC America, I didn’t get the references to contemporary British culture. Readers with a lot of knowledge of poetry, literature, and life at the British universities would appreciate this book more than I did.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, September 2021.

Book Review: Blood by Maggie Gee @maggiegeewriter @FentumPress

Blood
Maggie Gee
Fentum Press, July 2019
ISBN 978-1-909572-12-6
Trade Paperback

Albert Ludd is a physically and verbally abusive dentist, who also cheats the National Health Service and forces his patients to have sex with him. He has six children, who all hate him in different ways. When the book opens, his youngest son Fred, has been killed in Afghanistan. His father bullied him into joining the Army, and when there was a memorial gathering for Fred, dad didn’t bother to show up.

Daughter Monica, a six foot tall, awkward, teacher, is irate at their father for skipping the get-together, and buys an axe before having a showdown with dad. She finds him, battered and bloodied, in his home. Believing that she killed him, she abandons her car and runs off through the neighborhood before the police track her down.

The book is told from the points of view of Monica, a wildly unreliable narrator, and Adoncia, one of the dentist’s patients and rape victims. The author poses the question: can the victims of bullying men fight back against them and their violence? Full of dark humor and contemporary British slang, this book may not be everyone’s cuppa.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, August 2019.