Books: Boo! (Scared Yet?)

Marina Warner, a keen student of fairy tales, takes a look at things that go bump in the night

Lady writer on the TV/talk about the Virgin Mary..." the band Dire Straits once sang. "Lady writer on the TV/ She had all the brains and the beauty." When reminded of this, said lady writer breaks into peals of embarrassed laughter. "I guess that was me," confesses Marina Warner, whose second book, Alone of All Her Sex, a study of the Virgin Mary, came out around the same time as the 1979 song. "I wish I could claim something of more distinction in terms of popular culture, but I don't know that I can."

In her North London study, a sunny...

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