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Weird Britannia

I couldn’t tell a Plantagenet from a Pendragon, but I love me some weird science fiction and fantasy set in the UK! Here’s a handful in chronological order of setting.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
An elderly British couple, shunned by their Saxon neighbors, set out to find their estranged son, but an amnesia-inducing fog leaves them unable find their way with any certainty. A series of encounters brings their goal in and out of focus and reveals their personal journey to have bigger implications than they could have known. I absolutely love this book for the way it left me feeling as foggy as its protagonists while keeping me riveted to the story. All this, and he won a Nobel Prize too!

A Field in England DVD by Amy Jump and Ben Wheatley
In the midst of the English Civil War, a handful of deserters find themselves bound to whatever fate will keep them from the fighting. Unfortunately, it means falling under the sway of an alchemist (plus some very potent mushrooms) and maybe losing themselves altogether. Beautiful black and white cinematography, a fascinating mix of dialects, and a bizarre mix sublime, profane, and comedic make this film a masterpiece of lo-fi psychedelia.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
In Georgian London, magic is believed to be a thing of the past until the reclusive Mr. Norrell makes a public demonstration of his abilities, and soon afterwards the dashing Jonathan Strange soon presents himself as a student. A bright new age of magic seems to be on the horizon until foreign wars, personal failings, and otherworldly creatures threaten to tear everything down. I’ve only seen the lovely TV miniseries adaptation, but this book is near-universally loved.

Under the Skin by Michael Faber
The only contemporary story on this list, Under the Skin reveals the inner life of a young woman named Isserley, who makes a habit of picking up male hitchhikers along Scottish country highways. Her reasons are, perhaps, unsavory, but the book reveals itself to be surprisingly sympathetic to Isserley’s lot in life. It’s an uncomfortable book on many levels (including some depictions of sexual violence), but the result is a book like none other. The Jonathan Glazer film is worth checking out too – its storytelling is more atmospheric, but it’s a beautiful and haunting cinematic experience.

Thanks to Allie Jackson for the UK royal house names!

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