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People Like Us

Lawrence Miles on 'nice-but-then' syndrome:

Re-writing the whole world in order to prop up a specifically late-twentieth-century agenda is bad enough, but WALKING TO BABYLON sets about re-writing the whole of history. Lady Ninan is supposedly a resident of ancient Babylon, but speaks and acts like a twentieth- century post-feminist liberal, thus "proving" that "people like us" have been making the world a lovely place in which to live throughout history; despite living in a city under constant threat of foreign attack, the Lady lets Bernice, a complete stranger and obvious alien, stay in her house without any form of introduction simply on the pretext that "people like us" have to stick together; Bernice has a relationship with a (Victorian, or early Edwardian?) traveller- cum-archaeologist who, despite the Victorian era's notoriety for male violence, bigotry and misogeny [sic] turns out to be such a "new man" that he becomes a stereotypical perfect gentleman from a Barbara Cartland novel; the two of them embark on a relationship which has every possible jagged edge systematically smoothed away by the text, almost as a demonstration of how nice, kind, polite and utterly unthreatening men can be picked up in any historical period ...

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