Article: Breaking into the middle of the story. . .


May 17, 2023 by Lydia Syson

I was delighted to read Paloma Fresno-Calleja’s very perceptive analysis of Mr Peacock’s Possessions in the journal Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction. In her own words:

Abstract: This article analyses Lydia Syson’s Mr Peacock’s Possessions as a neo-Victorian Robinsonade. In order to assess the contemporary pertinence of the format, I organize my discussion around the notion of un/settlement, a concept which applies to both the frustrated process of colonial domestication of the island depicted in the novel and to the author’s project of writing back to the narrative and ideological codes of the Victorian Robinsonade. The term “un/settlement” is also useful to explore the novel’s engagement with the violent colonial history of the region, which resurfaces in the present forcing the characters (and the author) to recover and narrate those stories and thus settle their debt with that past. The article starts by contextualizing Syson’s novel in relation to a long tradition of castaway narratives, and then moves on to discuss the novel in the light of neo-Victorian and postcolonial preoccupations with the possibilities and limitations of historical revision and reparation.

Paloma Fresno-Calleja (2023) Breaking into the Middle of the Story: Reading Lydia Syson’s Mr Peacock’s Possessions as a Neo-Victorian Robinsonade, Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, DOI: 10.1080/00111619.2022.2162366


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“A mesmerising portrait of a family unravelling” THE TIMES (Best historical fiction in 2018)

“Powerful, intense and beautiful” HISTORICAL NOVEL REVIEW

“This tense, evocative, richly-imagined novel conjures the voices of a strange time and place, and makes them universal” EMMA DARWIN

“Syson brings history alive” THE OBSERVER

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