It’s been a while, by gar!

No, not just since I updated the blog: sadly, that almost goes without saying.

What I actually meant was that it’s been quite a stretch since Reading Roulette landed me on something outside my comfort zone.

The ‘goalposts’ for this particular subsection are set at 1741 – 1930, so we really should be mixing it up more; but the always-capricious Reading Gods have seemed content for some time to present me with a series of sentimental and didactic 18th and 19th century novels.

So I was a bit taken aback suddenly to find myself dealing with something from 1922.

John Davys Beresford was born in 1873 and, after being crippled by polio, devoted himself early in life to academic pursuits and a writing career. His marriage produced two children, Marc Brandel (Marcus Beresford) and Elizabeth Beresford, both writers of supernatural fiction—although the latter is best known for creating The Wombles.

As a young man, Beresford grew estranged from his clergyman father and his conventional views, embracing first agnosticism and later more esoteric beliefs including Theosophy. But however unconventional his religious views, Beresford always professed a sincere spirituality that was reflected in his writing, which often dealt with miraculous events and the triumph of the spiritual over the material. He also studied psychology as a different way of understanding the world.

Today, J. D. Beresford’s literary reputation rests chiefly on his works of speculative fiction, which cover a spectrum from outright science fiction to alternative / dystopian fantasies to allegories of religious doubt. An admirer of H. G. Wells (about whom he wrote the first critical study, titled simply H. G. Wells, which was published in 1915), Beresford followed though not copied him in writing novels about the clash between the miraculous – or even merely unusual – and narrow-thinking modern society. His first and most famous novel, The Hampdenshire Wonder, is the story of a super-child born to ordinary parents, and his rejection by the world around him; while his 1913 novel, Goslings, is the first literary attempt to depict seriously an all-female society. In 1921’s Revolution, Beresford imagined a full-scale socialist revolution in the United Kingdom.

However—my roll of the dice landed me upon none of these, but instead a between-the-wars psychological drama, The Prisoners Of Hartling.

Trust me.



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