So my doctoral work is the interwar treatment of trauma and history in popular fiction, and one of the writers whose work abuts the authors I am focused on is the late, great Sylvia Townsend Warner, who was an extremely interesting woman - and writer, and Communist, and a lesbian in the problematic post-Well of Loneliness obscenity trial period. She would be a fascinating personality if she’d never written a word of fiction, but she did - and one of them is particularly revelant to my (and your) interests.
Why is Summer Will Show amazing, you ask? Because it’s a lesbian novel written in the 1930s? Well, yes - but also because it’s set during the révolution de Février in 1848, in the streets and on the barricades.
The heroine of the novel is an Englishwoman with an exceedingly English name, Sophia Willoughby. She has inherited her father’s estate, and runs it by herself in the absence of her husband. They have two children, and she’s happy running her own life, her own property, and raising her family; she doesn’t particularly mind that her husband has fucked off, although she has no particularly positive view of what she’s heard of his Parisian mistress.
For even to Dorset the name of Minna Lemuel had made its way. Had the husband of Mrs. Willoughby chosen with no other end than to be scandalous, he could not have chosen better. A byword, half actress, half strumpet; a Jewess; a nonsensical creature bedizened with airs of prophecy, who trailed across Europe with a tag-rag of poets, revolutionaries, musicians and circus-riders snuffing at her heels, like an escaped bitch with a procession of mongrels after her; and ugly; and old; as old as Frederick or older - this was the woman who Frederick had elected to fall in love with, joining in the tag-rag procession, and not even king in that outrageous court, not even able to dismiss the mongrels, and take the creature into keeping.
Then (spoiler) her children die in an epidemic. She may have no use for her husband, but she wants children and a successor to her estate; so she leaves for Paris to conceive a child with him, and on that visit, meets Minna, who’s not only half-actress and half-strumpet, but wholly a revolutionary and a Communist.
This is the point in a traditional novel where the claws would come out, and Frederick would become the fulcrum they turn on; instead, to his own disgust, he becomes utterly irrelevant, because when they meet, they don’t hate each other. They’re drawn to each other, irrevocably and undeniably.
Then, the barricades.
Read this book! But if you happen to find the Virago reissue from the 1980s, don’t read the foreword, which gives away the entire plot, not just the teaser I’ve shared here. Hilariously, I own a secondhand copy of the Virago, and it’s faded so much in the harsh Antipodean sun that the red, white, and blue colour is now red-orange, white, and green. The whole effect is entirely Italian.
Sylvia Townsend Warner
She and her partner, Valentine Ackland, an artist and fellow Communist, (mostly) managed to live happily ever after, in a time when the most famous Sapphic pairings didn’t (Violet Trefusis and Vita Sackville-West, Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf, the Radclyffe Hall/Una Troubridge/Radclyffe Hall’s dead ex-lover spiritual menage, et cetera).
Also recommended: Townsend Warner’s Mr Fortune’s Maggot, a love story featuring the eponymous English missionary and a young Pacific Island man he falls in love with, which plays with colonialism and turns it on its head, and her Lolly Willowes, which is actually an interesting fantasy-influenced spin on the idea of the spinster and the superfluous woman with lesbian undertones, and involves magical transformations into a CAT. Little-known 1930s novels: treasure troves.
Rolling Stone profile of Freddie Mercury for their 100 Greatest Singers list.
"I’ll fucking do it, darling" though.
This is still one of the best things i’ve ever read.
I want to get this tattooed (via some-bunny-to-love)
The amount of people who have taken Cecil and Carlos’s extremely sweet, healthy and happy relationship and turned it into a creepy stalker or disturbing rapist style fic in the WTNV is disturbing.
You are taking a homoromantic relationship that is healthy and turning it into something filled with abuse, manipulation and dishonesty.
And that really worries me. That scares me. That makes me scared of you.
daftalchemist is extremely guilty of this and that’s why i want to vomit in the shoes of anyone who recommends their fic to me.
and then there’s the legion of kevin/diego ~*~smexy ultraviolent noncon~*~ fics that’s utterly skeevy