Angel draws on (and laughs at) the work of once popular, now forgotten women novelists like E. M. Hull and Ethel M. Dell as it tackles the question of what happens if you only listen to your own narrative voice. As Hilary Mantel suggests, while it’s tempting to dismiss Angel as ‘an awful warning’ about ‘how bad art is made’, she also suggests that Taylor deromanticises the process of writing, recognising that ‘whatever the impulse to art […] a cast-iron vanity and a will to power are needed to sustain it’ (Mantel 2006, p. xiv). Angel’s determination to succeed against the odds drives this compelling and unsentimental narrative.
Since Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1818), readers have enjoyed the trope of popular fiction (in Austen’s case, the Gothic novel) being both satirised and reworked. This counter-narrative is an in-joke, aimed at the sophisticated reader ready to see their favourite kind of novel being recast.
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