Fierce Bad Rabbits
“Opening a picture book from your childhood can be dangerous,” Clare Pollard warns of her history of illustrated children’s books. Each chapter examines how a weighty topic – anthropomorphism, didacticism, femininity – is packaged for children. Pollard so delicately enters into the world of “sweet treats, acrobats and laughter”, that the reader feels they are rediscovering once-loved landscapes. Her accounts of works by the likes of Beatrix Potter dissect the way our childhoods were crafted while rendering them, as Lewis Carroll’s Alice said, “curiouser and curiouser”.
Fig Tree, 304pp, £14.99
The Tradition is the third collection from the Louisiana-born poet Jericho Brown, who ten years ago won the American Book Award for his debut collection, Please. His latest book addresses themes of evil, masculinity, race and trauma with striking clarity. “A poem is a gesture toward home/It makes dark demands I call my own,” Brown writes, introducing his newly conceived form, the “Duplex”, which merges the sonnet and the ancient Arabic ghazal and moves cyclically in a neatly enclosed exploration of the poet’s desires.
Picador, 86pp, £10.99
“Throughout our relationship, I’d engineered myself to occupy as little space as possible so that he could be as large as he liked.” This self-reflection touches all aspects of Ruth’s life after Neil, her partner of ten years, abruptly ends their relationship. As she sets about restructuring her identity her story is interspersed with fragments of the past written from Neil’s perspective, which hint at the troubling origins of their relationship. Livia Franchini has delivered an impressive, Sally Rooney-esque debut novel.
Doubleday, 288pp, £12.99
This article appears in the 14 Aug 2019 issue of the New Statesman, The age of conspiracy