In which I go ‘Down The Rabbit Hole’…


October 2, 2015 by Lydia Syson

…with fellow History Girl, Catherine Johnson. A little over a year ago, the world of children’s literature cheered the launch of a brand new radio programme, DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE, broadcast from the creative and groundbreaking station Resonance FM.  Once a month, a thoroughly expert team – Katherine Woodfine of Booktrust, Louise Lamont of LBA and Melissa Cox of Waterstones – put together a book-packed 30 minute show which has proved itself an unmissable and wide-ranging guide to everything that’s new in children’s books. I know I’m addicted to archives, so I would say this, but trust me – the DTRH one is more accessible than most and well worth exploring!

Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to compare notes on writing historical fiction with Catherine, whose latest novel, The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo brilliantly re-imagines the story of one of Enlightenment England’s most intriguing impostors.*

Listen to the complete September edition of DTRH here with illustrator David Roberts and author Katherine Webber here (including news and views of latest books by two authors who happen to be extremely popular in my household, Sarah Crossan and Brian Selznick). Highlights of our thoughts about school history, research, rewrites and history from below can be heard here and (if you’re really keen) the whole conversation is available  here.


Many thanks to Wei Ming Kam for organising and editing this feature – there was so much to talk about we certainly didn’t make that easy. You can follow DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE on Twitter here – look out for regular competitions with new books as prizes – and find the show (and its entire, wonderful archive) on Tumblr here.

*The ever-inventive ‘Princess’ fooled Gloucestershire for months in 1817, the year after an African-American sailor called Robert Adams appeared in London claiming to have been taken in captivity to Timbuktu. How Adams’ Narrative was reproduced and received was central to my 2003 PhD about imagining Timbuctoo in the 19th century.

More from me on historical fiction coming up next week at the History Girls, where I’ll be thinking about slang, lexicography and the dangerous temptations of the ‘Vulgar Tongue’.



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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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