10 Books that Inspired Kathryn Bromwich's 'At the Edge of the Woods'

By Damian Barr's Bookshop

10 Books that Inspired Kathryn Bromwich's 'At the Edge of the Woods'

By Damian Barr's Bookshop

Our Book of the Week is a spellbinding debut novel by Kathryn Bromwich. In At the Edge of the Woods, Laura lives alone in a cabin deep in the Italian Alps. When she isn’t translating documents, she spends her days climbing the mountains exploring the woods. But while she healing with nature, Laura is hiding from the violence of her past. The village where she purchases supplies grows leery of the woman in the cabin and of her increasingly odd behaviour living in isolation. 

 

With a deft hand and slow-burn tension, At the Edge of the Woods is a captivating novel for anyone who enjoyed Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller or Strega by Johanne Lykke Holm.

 

New episodes of the podcast run every Wednesday. In the meantime, discover the books that inspired the author with captions prepared by Kathryn. Happy reading!

The Wall: Discover this addictive dystopia from the Vintage Earth series

Marlen Haushofer

£9.99 £9.49

I am slightly cheating with this one, which I only read after my own book was finished (I didn’t manage to find an English translation until last summer’s Vintage Earth edition). But I was aware of the premise because of the film adaptation, which I found singularly chilling. The book is even better, exploring themes of nature, survival and destruction. Haushofer’s depictions of animals are moving and lifelike, and her writing is attuned to the changing rhythms of the seasons and the rigorous demands of farming life.

The Haunting of Hill House

Shirley Jackson

£9.99 £9.49

The reason why this is a classic of horror literature isn’t because the house is particularly frightening, or that evil spirits attack guests “in the night, in the dark”. The real horror comes from within Nell’s own mind, as her thoughts become increasingly erratic under the malevolent influence of the mansion. And yet, when her everyday life is one of sacrifice, hardship and repressed queer desire, it is easy to see why this new way of thinking has taken a hold over her.

William Blake vs the World

John Higgs

£10.99 £10.44

I was fascinated by this in-depth study of William Blake’s writings and beliefs. Ever since childhood, Blake experienced vivid visions of angels, spirits and historical figures, who would guide him through life and inform his artistic choices. Higgs places this in the context of neurobiology, quantum physics and psychedelic therapy in order to understand what exactly constitutes a mystical vision.

The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman

Angela Carter

£9.99 £9.49

Another prominent defacer of fairy tales, for her sixth novel Carter “realised that there were no limitations to what one could do in fiction”. The result is a mind-melting book in which a city’s inhabitants find their surroundings distorted into strange, lysergic shapes courtesy of the sinister Doctor Hoffman. What follows is a picaresque series of events taking in somnambulists, carnivals and centaurs, paving the way for her late-career masterpieces.

Her Body And Other Parties

Carmen Maria Machado

£9.99 £9.49

Along with Clarissa Pinkola Estés’s classic Women Who Run With The Wolves, Machado’s writing repurposes folklore tropes in order to dissect modern relationships and gender dynamics. Traditional fairy tales are rife with harmful stereotypes and expectations, so it is worth interrogating what effect these narratives have on our sense of self. There is also endless potential for creepiness in this genre, which I appreciate.

Pond

Claire-Louise Bennett

£10.99 £10.44

A woman slowly loses her mind in an isolated house on the west coast of Ireland, becoming more and more entrenched in her daily rituals: although published in 2015, this extraordinary book (collection of short stories? novella? does it matter?) felt as though it was written personally for me to read in the depths of the pandemic. Similarly to Clarice Lispector’s The Passion According to G.H., it captures a narrator who has absconded from the world and who starts to lose touch with reality, revealing what happens when our carefully constructed façades break down.

The Living Mountain: A Celebration of the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland

Nan Shepherd

£9.99 £9.49

A sensuous, evocative description of Scotland’s Cairngorm mountains, this slim volume was written in the 1940s but not published until 1977. It forensically depicts the disparate elements that make up the mountains and analyses their effect on the human mind and psyche. The nature writing is breathtaking, as is its feminine perspective on what was historically a very male milieu, looking at the mountains in their totality rather than as peaks to be summited or challenges to be conquered.

Cassandra at the Wedding

Dorothy Baker

£9.99 £9.49

I loved how this shrewd, acerbic novel places you squarely inside the head of its unreliable narrator, who is returning home for her twin sister’s wedding to a man Cassandra does not approve of. It is apparent from the start that all is not well, but the real sleight of hand is the way Baker’s precise and stylish prose captures her protagonist’s descent from wittily neurotic to something darker and more dangerous.

The Upanishads

Eknath Easwaran

£9.99 £9.49

I have always been interested in meditation, but it was not until becoming seriously ill during the pandemic that I took a course on Vedic meditation, which uses a mantra to bring your mind and body to a state of deep stillness. It was transformative. I know everyone from the Beatles to David Lynch has been influenced by The Upanishads, but the sacred Sanskrit text’s lessons about life, death and meaning feel especially relevant today. I was particularly struck by the idea that beneath the layers of the things we think are our identity is a deeper, unchanging core that connects everything there is.

The Book of Margery Kempe: A Norton Critical Edition

Margery Kempe

£9.99 £9.49

This unnerving account of a mediaeval mystic had a powerful effect on me when I read it at university. Kempe was widely reviled for the intensity of her fervour, her dramatic public outbursts and her almost sensual devotion to Christ. But while her contemporaries did not believe in her visions, she was fully convinced that what she was experiencing was not only real but transcendental, and I felt very drawn to this duality. This book made me understand the potential of female hysteria, the force it can have.

At the Edge of the Woods

Kathryn Bromwich

£20.00 £19.00

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