Dinah Birch

Dinah Birch is a pro-vice chancellor and professor of English at the University of Liverpool. She has written extensively on John Ruskin, as well as Dickens, Tennyson and the Brontës, and is the general editor of the Oxford Companion to English Literature.

Water on the Brain: Spurious Ghosts

Dinah Birch, 30 November 2023

‘Aren’t you tired​ of them? One hears nothing else nowadays.’ The peevish Mrs Snowdon, a character in Mary Louisa Molesworth’s ‘The Story of the Rippling Train’ (1887), is grumbling about the popularity of ghost stories. Nevertheless, she is gripped by the one that follows. Accounts of the supernatural proliferated in the 19th century, as the certainties...

Go to Immirica: Hate Mail

Dinah Birch, 21 September 2023

Years ago​, a poison pen letter dropped onto my doormat. It was a rambling affair in uneven capitals, accusing me of all sorts of lurid wickedness. As no threats were involved and the allegations were evidently crazy, I put it straight in the bin and tried to forget about it. But I was unsettled. Who had written it? How had they found my address? Why me? Was worse to follow? Nothing else...

Proper Ghosts: ‘The Monk’

Dinah Birch, 16 June 2016

In the early 1980s​, before hitch-hikers disappeared from the roads, I gave a lift to a couple of teenage Goths on the way to Stratford-upon-Avon. Their cheerful conversation was reassuringly at odds with their get-up (black hair, white faces, silver skulls dangling from their ears). I wondered whether they might see a connection between Hamlet’s nighted colour and their own style,...

Janet Davey​’s books scrutinise contemporary lives, but are reluctant to claim a guiding theme. They are more interested in the failures of intention. The tales they begin to tell meander and lose direction, refusing to crystallise into plot. Her central characters seem baffled by their own histories and motives, and unsettled by those of others. Their misadventures result in no...

The Iron Way: Family History

Dinah Birch, 19 February 2015

Children​ often envy orphans. But the appeal of stories of parentless heroes who are free to make their own luck fades as the fluid possibilities of youth harden into adulthood. The quirks and prejudices of family life start to seem fascinating, or admirable. We hanker after a clearer picture of the vanished men and women who gave rise to our parents’ lives, and our own. As she grows...

Seeing through Fuller

Nicholas Penny, 30 March 1989

It has been respectable for some while now to admit to being bored by the huge, flat, ‘pure’ abstracts on the white walls of the museums of modern art. And yet non-representational...

Read more reviews

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences