Who Was Changed And Who Was Dead


Nige has a postage about Barbara Comyns, which served to remind me that Who Was Changed And Who Was Dead (1954) is one of my favourite novels, and without any doubt the finest book in the popular outbreak-of-ergot-poisoning genre. I have not reread it for years, so have removed it from the shelves in readiness.

Those who like to delve into such things may wish to know that I consider it an important influence on my own scribblings. How could it not be, when, leafing through it just now I note sentences such as:

There was a great smell of mud, and it was the first of June.

We always have cocoa after a thunderstorm.

The village bachelor, drink-sodden Lumber Splinterbones, usually ambled along to Grandmother Willoweed’s birthday party.

Dennis was frightened of cows

and there should now be a question mark to end this sentence on a grammatically sound footing, thus… ?

2 thoughts on “Who Was Changed And Who Was Dead

  1. I must admit that although I love this book and think that it is probably the best Barbara Comyns novel – I had no idea that there were any other books inspired by outbreaks of ergot poisoning… If you are interested I reviewed this book for “forgotten books friday” on Pattinase which can be found here: http://pattinase.blogspot.com/2010/04/fridays-forgotten-books-april-9-2010.html . I would be interested to hear about them anyway! I love the sentences that you have selected. Comyns was wonderously free of grammatical conventions – that is one of the things that makes her so interesting to read.

    Great to discover your blog.


  2. Hannah : I announced the existence of such a genre in the hope of creating it. How fine it would be to see ergot-poisoning-outbreak books supplanting all those misery memoirs on the shelves!

    Many thanks for the link, by the way.

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