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Jane Rawson

Allegories can be divisive. They are inherently deceptive, forever speaking with forked tongues. Animal Farm both is and isn’t a fairy story about talking pigs. Spenser’s Faerie Queene isn’t just an epic poem about the Redcrosse Knight’s chivalric virtues. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe isn’t merely a fantasy about plucky children conquering a malicious ice queen. Some readers enjoy being literary archaeologists fossicking beneath a narrative’s surface for deeper meaning. There is a thrill in peering through a story’s topsoil, discovering the many-layered substrata beneath it, seeing the author’s politics supporting the words. Others prefer texts without overt messages. To them, as Barthes puts it, the writer should be ‘dead’. Let readers engage with the work on their own terms. Let the book speak for itself.

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Unusually for literary fiction, Alice Robinson’s The Glad Shout opens right in the thick of the action: Jostled and soaked, copping an elbow to her ribs, smelling wet wool and sweat and the stony creek scent of damp concrete, Isobel grips Shaun’s cold fingers and clamps Matilda to her hip, terrified of losing them in the roiling crowd ...

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From the Wreck is a deeply ecological novel. It isn’t quite cli-fi – that new genre of fiction concerned with dramatising the effects of our changing climate on people and the world – rather, it is underpinned by an awareness of the connectedness of creatures: animal, human, and otherworldly alike, and narrated in parts by a creature who has fled anot ...