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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SDG.