Why I Really Like This Book
These are podcasts about forgotten fiction, for curious readers, and for anyone who likes old books. Sometimes they're stories, sometimes they're not. Most of the authors write in English; and sometimes they don't. But all the books I talk about, I really really like. I hope you will too.
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My name is Kate Macdonald: I'm an English lecturer, and a lifelong browser in second-hand bookshops. I post weekly ten-minute podcasts on a Friday, on the books I really like which I think deserve new readers. You can find out lots more at the Facebook page here, and get these podcasts weekly by subscribing on the iTunes link above.

The music for the podcast intro is by The Tribe Band. Lucy Marsh did the drawing and Matthias Opsomer lettered it. Patrick Belk and Martin Fowler hold my tech safety net.

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Questions? Send me a message by mailing me at kate [dot] brussels [at] yahoo [dot] com.

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In R M Dashwood's glorious Provincial Daughter, this is life for a doctor's wife in a 1950s Berkshire village: feeding children, get them to school, making beds, interviewing boiler repairman, being depressed by scorn of next door neighbour, feeding toddler, a fleeting chance to wonder whether she ought to go to London for a decent hair cut, and then its back to collecting children, cooking, cleaning, scrambling into a dress that doesn't fit for a drinks party where everyone looks impossibly glamorous and expects her to be intellectual just because she has an English degree. More sherry please.

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Ecclesiastical thrills in Barbara Pym's village drama, Some Tame Gazelle. All the fun of the village fete, and lots more fun in and out of Belinda Bede's house, where proposals keep happening, suppers are competitive, and curates are cossetted beyond all reasonable requirements. For those interested in the hierarchy of the Church of England as it applies to getting out of a job.

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Come to Angela Thirkell's Barsetshire and trot around after the Rector's wife as she struggles with Northbridge in wartime conditions, in Northbridge Rectory. Shudder at the evacuees. Recoil at Mrs Spender's dinner-party conversation. Brace yoursef under Miss Pemberton's disapproval, but also marvel at her amazing cooking, and at the ease with which a book contract can be had with the right kind of onion soup. Mrs Villars only feels safe in the garden of the Rectory, but even there village life comes to find her. For all Barsetshire lovers.

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E F Benson's camp classic Queen Lucia begins his series about the immortal Lucia, queen of art and tyrant of the muse, in her dear little village of Riseholme. Battle royal commences when Olga Bracely arrives in the village. She is far more talented, and a far better musician, than Lucia will ever know. Watch as Olga steals Georgie Pillson from Lucia's side. Gasp as the struggle for social dominance reaches epic proportions in an evening party of romps, and smile as the Wagnerian tableaux allow Olga to retire from the fray, leaving Lucia triumphantly, ignorantly, the victor. For students of Machiavelli.

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Puck of Pook's Hill and Rewards and Fairies, two books of short stories all about England's history, wrapped around Rudyard Kipling's village of Burwash in Sussex, and told in the master's signature style of multilevels, elliptical storytelling, and complex allusions. And what fine and fascinating stories they are, where the village is almost more important than the people. For readers who like their county history.

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Imagine a planet where men simply die, they can't live there, and so its society is composed entirely of women. They have children, they trade, they try and kill each other, they're surviving. What happens when a Company ship lands security staff and militarised colonists to try and take over this agricultural world barely out of the Iron Age? Nicola Griffith's Ammonite: for readers who take their anthropology seriously.

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Deep in space, women and men are equal. Elizabeth Moon's Once A Hero isn't about women and men at all, but about soldiers and treachery, leadership and command, truth and lies. Esmay Suiza rides horses reluctantly because she'd much rather be safe in space, where she belongs. For readers who just want a great space navy novel that happens to be saturated in feminism.

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In a post-nuclear holocaust world, how does science get transmitted? Who understands medicine? How do societies adapt and learn from each other? Vonda McIntyre's marvellous novel Dreamsnake about doctors and patients hardly mentions the gender thing, because equality is a given. For readers who like their utopias dystopic.

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If you can't walk, see, move or breathe unaided, you can still fly through the galaxies as a brain ship, encased in titanium, and totally in charge of your own environment, serving the sentient world in intergalactic transport. You can be a hospital ship, a charter flight for actors, and a transporter of 30,000 babies in embryo. Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who Sang is a pre-feminist novel about why women in space need never be confined except by their own bodies. For those who really want to fly.

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What trouble can lichen cause? If it gives you longer life, and only some people can afford it, that's a lot of trouble. And when the people who've been given the longer life first are women, how are the others going to feel? Why should women have more life? What will they do with it? How will society change? John Wyndham's great novel Trouble with Lichen from 1960 is a classic work of British science fiction from a master story-teller, one of his best, and most far-seeing, because this future is still ahead of us.

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