No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Monday, December 21, 2015

2015/34: Witches of Lychford -- Paul Cornell

“Just like my first time,” she said. “Only without the lesbianism. Probably no time for that now.”

“No,” agreed Autumn, alarmed.

“Right,” nodded Lizzie quickly, then seemed to feel compelled to add, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

“You don’t have to, I found out, afterwards,” said Judith. “But they didn’t tell me at the time. It was the sixties.” [loc. 796]

Lychford is a small English town with the usual small-town problems, including Sovo, the multinational supermarket chain who propose to build a new store -- and thus disrupt the delicate geography of Lychford, the centre of which marks and enforces ancient boundaries. Judith, a widow with eccentric tendencies, is rightly suspicious of Sovo and its Chief Executive in Charge of New Development, David Cummings. Judith reluctantly joins forces with the new Vicar, Lizzie (more recently widowed, and still blaming herself for her husband's death) and Autumn, who was Lizzie's best friend before she disappeared for a year, only to pop up running a magic shop in Lychford. The witches are determined to maintain the balance, drive out Sovo (and Cummings, who given his habits is worse than he looks) and stop Lychford from the incursions of the other worlds. None of the three expect help: but help does come, from an unexpected quarter ...

This novella is great fun, nicely plotted and well-written: superficially a cosy rural fantasy, with some pretty nasty stuff lurking behind the scenes. Judith is the sort of old woman one might like to end up as: a cantankerous crone with a dark past and a nice line in sarcasm. I'd like to read more about all three of the witches, and about the mysterious Finn ("you realised I wasn’t so attractive without my makeup. Because I’m not a young white male.” [loc. 544]). There's scope for considerable development of setting and characters: The Witches of Lychford does resolve, but there's plenty of hinted backstory and unfinished business.

A great deal of potential but far too short! However, I see Mr Cornell is writing more Lychford ...

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