This past winter I had the pleasure of reading the manuscript of Susan Signe Morrison’s novel Grendel’s Mother: the Saga of the Wyrd-Wife. Here’s what I wrote after a few days of walking around with this wonderful book in my head:
In Grendel’s Mother: the Saga of the Wyrd-Wife, an emotionally rich retelling of Beowulf, Susan Signe Morrison reveals the tragically human monsters obscured by the heroic bravado of the original poem. Only a scholar and poet steeped in Anglo-Saxon literature and culture could conceive of such a lyrical extension of the poem from the perspective of the women in the mead hall. Reading it opened the poem to me as never before. What a gift! Grendel’s Mother is sure to become an integral part of every class on Beowulf.
Who is Susan? Though I made a point of having lunch with Susan at the medieval congress at WMU this past spring and now count her as a friend, I’m going to feed you the great bio that appears on the book:
Professor of English at Texas State University, Susan Signe Morrison lives in Austin, Texas, and writes on topics lurking in the margins of history, ranging from recently uncovered diaries of a teenaged girl in World War II to medieval women pilgrims, excrement in the Middle Ages, and waste.
In a praise-filled review, Kirkus calls the book an “enchanting, poignant reimagining of Beowulf,” the review also says:
….Morrison writes in alliterative, lyric prose that evokes the Old English of her source text: ‘There she saw the soft seaweed, barnacled bed, of a marine monster. Leaving her work, approaching with caution, she listened for linnets along the lime lane.’ An incredible world is spun out of blunt, staccato words: a world of customs and objects, of heroes and faiths, and, of course, of monsters. Morrison manages to update the medieval morality of the original poem while preserving its mournful sense of the old ways passing away.
And the blogger Andy Lloyd (Andy Lloyd Book Reviews) says:
[A] gritty, no-holds-barred epic….[A]n English Prof. doing ‘Conan the Barbarian.’
Conan the Barbarian. Hah! As Susan says, “never in my wildest dreams…” I can just see her grinning ear to ear.
So of course I invited Susan to talk shop here on A Writer’s Retreat. Tomorrow you can read it here!