Reading the BSFA Awards: 1987 “Gráinne” by Keith Roberts

The British Science Fiction Awards often highlight books that don’t even make it onto awards lists dominated by American authors. I’ve been reading and reviewing winners and nominees.

Gráinne by Keith Roberts

I truly am unsure of what to make of this baffling choice for best science fiction novel in 1987.

The overwhelming majority of the story is Alistair Bevan recalling his time with his lover, the eponymous Gráinne. It’s several slice-of-life vignettes tied together, many of which appear to be focused around Gráinne’s body or aspects of her beauty, voice, or something else that aroused Bevan. The rest of the plot, a term I use with great generosity, is interspersed between these scenes, telling of the rise of Gráinne as a kind of cultic leader.

The central thread appears to be an attempt to weave a new kind of mythos around Gráinne, but ultimately it reads much more like a wet dream fantasy than it does like a mythology. Gráinne herself is idolized–at times literally–by many people, but there seems to be little reason to do so other than intense lust after her stockinged form. Male gaze seems to be the point rather than an incidental detail here.

Gráinne ultimately left me utterly confused. There’s very little by way of content here. It’s uncomfortable to read it at its best.

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2 thoughts on “Reading the BSFA Awards: 1987 “Gráinne” by Keith Roberts

  1. socrates17 says:

    Pavane, of course, is his masterpiece. But I like his prose style a lot and have managed to get my hands on and read most of what was published by him. It was easy enough to get his Anita & Kaeti collections, but his novels were released by increasingly small presses, such as Kerosina who were the original publishers for the above. I’m guessing that you read the later Orion edition, because getting the Kerosina was quite the tsuris. I’ve read that his issues getting published were less due to the material, and more due to Roberts himself being VERY difficult to work with. I liked this book, but, as I said, I’m predisposed to like his prose style.

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