New Fiction and Theatre

There have been intriguing reports about two recently published novels. One of them is a dark fantasy. Piranesi is the second novel by Susanna Clarke and has just won the Women’s Prize for Fiction. It is an odd novel, described by David Mitchell (author of Cloud Atlas) as ‘an exquisite puzzle box’, while the Telegraph calls it ‘head-spinning’. It is certainly not a conventional read, but one where the reader must also work at the narrative. Read about the novel’s ‘mind-bending’ qualities here.

Then what about medieval nuns? What about a historical interpretation about medieval nuns from a feminist perspective which explores concerns in Trump’s America? A really good illustration about the ingenious ways in which literature interacts with contemporary contexts is Lauren Groff’s new novel Matrix. Nothing to do with the films of course. Here’s a review.

And while we are talking about context, which is such an important part of A Level study, you may find this section of the British Library site useful. Bookmark it so that you can return to it when necessary.

As we emerge from Covid, theatre is starting up again, and there are fascinating things on offer. A big headline is a ‘new kind of Hamlet‘ at the Young Vic in London with Adrian Dunbar, while Cush Jumbo takes the title role. It runs from 25 September to 13 November.

As part of NT At Home, you could see Tennessee Williams’ A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, an ideal complement to A Streetcar Named Desire if you are studying that. As the blurb says, ‘On a steamy night in Mississippi, a Southern family gather at their cotton plantation to celebrate Big Daddy’s birthday. The scorching heat is almost as oppressive as the lies they tell. Brick and Maggie dance round the secrets and sexual tensions that threaten to destroy their marriage.’ Sienna Miller is Maggie and it’s a powerful production of a great play, streaming from 10 March.

Something else which might be interesting is Imitating the Dog’s adaptation of Stoker’s novel Dracula. Adapting the narrative so it is seen from Mina’s perspective, relocating the action to London in 1965 and using digital technologies, it presents the novel as a kind of live graphic novel. Starting in Leeds later this month, the production will tour the the UK until early November. Read about Dracula – the Untold Story here.

And perhaps the most famous theatrical production of recent years is being revived. Mark Rylance will be appearing again as Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron in Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem next spring. ‘The 21st century’s best play’, ‘one of the greatest stage performances ever witnessed’ – it’s certainly had its accolades in London and on Broadway. See it if you can.