Lilian is expecting her first child when she is diagnosed with tuberculosis. It is the mid 1950s and her physician decides that she must be separated from her baby until and unless she recovers.
In this daring novella, Kay Syrad explores the reverberations of that momentous decision for Lilian, the grieving mother, for Morley, her doctor, burdened with doubt over his diagnosis and increasingly fixated with the fate of the infant, and for Lucie, the woman who was that abandoned infant.
Syrad combines fiction, notes, analysis and poetry to trace the obsessional and circuitous process involved in exploring truths that cannot be consciously known. With her we are drawn towards conflicting ideas about the nature of early awareness and sense perception, and their implications. The floating presence of these ideas and quotations, layered with competing fictional voices and the author's interjections, create a highly textured and mesmerising novella from this accomplished writer.
Praise for The Milliner and the Phrenologist
A truly singular piece of writing, in the best of senses. The rhythms and diction are never less than vital and springy, and often they soar into passages of real beauty. The characters, the wit, the convincing historicity - well, everyone will have compliments for those aspects, but it's on this level of high-aiming, high-achieving craftsmanship that I'll doff my cap to you.
Julian Bell, artist, writer and art historian