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Midland tells the stories of three young women as they fight to find their feet amidst the accumulated rubble of the twentieth century. From the bombsites of the 1940s to the construction sites of the 1960s and the school halls and decaying tower blocks of the 1980s, Honor Gavin has created an ingenious narrative of one Midlands family that is also a startling, anarchic history of a city.
Composed in electric prose that soars and dives, blending keenly observed dialect with urban theory, cinema, farcical digressions and surrealist timekeeping, Midland is a novel out of time but in the middle of everything.
To me, reading this book was dream-like as I sequenced between nostalgia and explicitly remembered detail. The narrative scenarios drew me into a believable world that was also a kind of science fiction. I loved the way that Honor played with language, peppering the pages with a wonderful mix of colloquiums and made up words that brought me closer to the heart of the world I was suspended in.
Gavin Turk, Judge for the 2015 Gordon Burn Prize
An original, sparky and fresh voice. Midland makes the female family epic anew and exhilarating.
Cherry Smyth, Writer & Critic
A wonderful contemporary, modernist, feminist novel about the second city … Gavin explores race and class, urban/rural divide, changing attitudes towards sex and sexuality, and she explores Birmingham too, far better than anything else I’ve ever read. Midland is a belter. Highly recommended.
Scott Manley Hadley, The Triumph of the Now
Midland is a glorious synthesis of the public and the personal, a unique work where we champion the city as an individual, witnessing the highs and lows of a city that just isn’t, well, set.
Julia Walmsley, Redbrick
As you read Midland you feel the form of the novel shaking under the weight of space and time, the foundations quaking and beginning to cave in; as if all time is coming down upon us … Here is an author writing on the edges of the form and it is exhilarating, if at times a little frightening!
Journal of Everyday Phonoaesthetics
Cover design by Penned in the Margins
Photograph by Phyllis Nicklin 'Ladywood redevelopment area and industrial district, Birmingham - 2nd image', 1957 (University of Birmingham)
Published 1 November 2014
Honor Gavin is one of the cleverest people I know
Honor Gavin was born in Birmingham in 1984 to a radio presenter and a retail assistant. To her three older siblings she owes her love of pop and Back to the Future. After her ambition of playing football for Aston Villa was jilted, she went on to study literature at the University of Oxford, where she also formed a band called How Can You. Architecturally, Hertford College’s Bridge of Sighs had nothing on Birmingham’s concrete skyways, prompting a fierce fondness for her home city that later became obsessive.
Gavin is a founding member of the whenwebuildagain.org collective, has written widely on subjects including Samuel Beckett, Buster Keaton, and Brutalism, and has been a contributor to zines such as The Modernist and All That is Common. After a period in Berlin as a Fellow of the Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry, she is currently Lecturer in Fiction and Writing at the University of Sheffield. Her current creative project – a crime suspense murder mystery about the comeback of a boyband that never existed – is titled “Never Was.”