The Interior Life

Yesterday’s post wound up with a suggestion not to set flashbacks off with “italics or a different font.”

That made me think at once of times when it’s fine to use a different font. In particularly, how many of you remember how Katherine Blake did that in her highly engaging novel The Interior Life? This is a narrative that switches back and forth between a contemporary woman dealing with ordinary tasks and a woman in a secondary world fantasy dealing with tasks that start of mundane and then segue into an epic fantasy plot. The two threads are told in subtly different fonts.

This is a story I recommend, by the way. The story is especially interesting because of the way the contemporary, mundane story takes on much greater interest in juxtaposition to the fantasy story. And the two stories are so completely separate. No one ever moves from one world to the other. Very odd novel, but as I say, I liked it a lot. Katherine Blake is actually Dorothy Heydt, by the way. Here’s a post by Jo Walton at about this novel.

The Interior Life is grounded in the feminine virtues of nurturing and support, and it takes this seriously in a way that a lot of feminist SF and fantasy doesn’t quite manage. From Tehanu to Thendara House there’s a self-consciousness in the way we’re told these things are important while being shown that they’re not. Heydt avoids that entirely by writing about them with a heartfelt sincerity. It’s also a cheerful positive book—not just a book with a happy ending, but a resolutely upbeat book. It’s a really enjoyable read. No wonder it sank without trace.

I hadn’t thought of it that way, but this is totally true.

Jo Walton goes on:

The narrative switches between worlds without missing a beat, sometimes several times in the same paragraph—by the time you’re switching between the PTA tea-party and the coronation you don’t even notice that it’s odd. Heydt has said that she intended to use different typefaces to represent the different viewpoints, but this didn’t work out—fortunately it wasn’t necessary, all the cues are there and it is never hard to follow.

The fonts are so similar, that’s why she said it didn’t work. You have to squint to see the difference, but you can see it. However, Walton is right, the writing is smooth, so you can follow the story easily.

The only other book by Heydt that I know about is A Point of Honor, which is also good, though not as interesting as The Interior Life. I don’t see any description of A Point of Honor at Amazon, so here is a link to my comments about this book. Neither book is available as an ebook as far as I know. Used copies are available and well worth picking up.

Please Feel Free to Share:


6 thoughts on “The Interior Life”

  1. I was going to point out where to download it, but madscientistnz beat me to it. It’s a pdf file which I ran through Calibre and turned into an epub which behaves nicely when reconverted into a kindle compatible format. (at least it worked back when I did it, which was … 2016.) The fonts stay differentiated.

  2. I just downloaded it (thank you for the link, Madscientist!), and the different fonts (including italics in each for thoughts) are extremely distracting! I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but they are hampering my ability to get into the story.

  3. It’s interesting, all right.

    There are killjoys who insist the fantasy world is unreal.

  4. I loved it when I first got it in paperback, but on rereading the this-world parts of the story turned out to have aged too much. The protagonist is trying too hard to be a perfect housewife (thing that enraged me the first time around and would now absolutely be a book-meets-wall moment if I didn’t like my ereader so much: “Honey, you did a real good job today,” Fred said. “Now, this is how you should keep the place all the time.”). Also, not all that realistic: someone who has never baked from scratch before producing three good-enough loaves (okay, and one failure) in one afternoon?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top