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Leyburn, UK; Tartarus Press; 2004. 1st edition thus. When Norman Huntley and Henry Beddow, sheltering from the rain in a dismal Irish country church, placate the sexton by telling him that they knew of his beloved pastor (now departed), there is no reason to suppose that there is any harm in the invention. It is purely for their own amusement that they create a fictional mutual friend: an elderly lady, Miss Hargreaves.

The sexton does not doubt her existence. For him, Miss Hargreaves is as real as you or I. And she gradually assumes a fully-rounded character in the imaginings of the two young men as they while away their holiday in expanding the details of her life: her book of poetry, her parrot Dr Pepusch, her harp, and her hip-bath. It is merely a continuation of their little joke when they write to invite her to visit them back in their cathedral home-town of Cornford.

It is something of a surprise when Miss Hargreaves accepts their invitation. And their disbelief turns to confusion and horror as, one evening soon afterwards, her train pulls into Cornford Station . . .

As Dr Glen Cavaliero stresses in his introduction, Miss Hargreaves is a brilliantly funny and moving fantasy with an admirable lightness of touch and wonderful characterisation, but for all that it has a dark and frightening undercurrent. A burlesque parable of 'the ways of God with man', the book explores how the creator must live with the consequences of their creation, no matter how uncomfortable. And if they renounce their responsibilities, then there is always the possibility that their power may be turned against them.

Miss Hargreaves, first published in 1940 to great acclaim, is a classic novel of the supernatural. Glen Cavaliero is a Fellow of St Catharine's College, Cambridge, and author of The Supernatural and English Fiction (O.U.P., 1995).

Miss Hargreaves is a sewn hardback of 266+ix pages. Limited to 300 copies. Fine in fine dj.