Book Review: Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall

Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall

Suzette Mayr, 224 pgs, Coach House Books,, $18.95

Dr. Edith Vane is going to start the new academic year right. She’s going to exer-cise, publish her monograph, and become “the architect of [her] life.” But with a bro-ken washing machine, an ineffective robot therapist, and maliciously competitive colleagues, Edith’s plans are quickly ruined. Even worse, Crawley Hall, the decaying brutalist centre for the humanities, seems to be haunted. Maggots drop from the ceil-ing, an army of eerie hares roam the halls, and professors disappear, fall ill, and die.

Suzette Mayr’s new novel, Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall, is a searing satire of academia with a Gothic backdrop. Edith is an adorably awkward professor who spent 19 years writing her soon-to-be-published monograph on Beulah Crump-Withers, an African-Canadian writer. As a biracial Black les-bian, Edith’s story highlights the discrim-inatory and exclusionary practices of academia through her abusive dissertation supervisor, who denies Edith’s academic ability, steals her intellectual property, and treated her as her “cute and exotic-looking PhD student, her shy queer brown pet.”

Alongside these powerful critiques of academia come hilarious moments of lev-ity, such as when Edith fantasizes about one of her colleagues during a staff meet-ing, imagining them together “under a rumpled pile of blankets in a bed, reading Deleuze and Guattari together” in “Academic, romantic Elysium.” Edith is a quirky, nerdy, overly sensitive underdog, and with Mayr’s expert characterization she becomes utterly enthralling.

Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall is a brilliant, timely novel and a must-read for anyone who is or has ever considered pursuing a career in academia. With its excellent mix of humour and tragedy, Mayr’s novel is a cathartic read that critiques the corpo-ratization of the academe and the poli-tics of exclusion in higher education. (Alexander De Pompa)


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