Unlocking the Cellar Door
: Critical Commentary of Silver and Salt

  • Katherine Stansfield

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


A historical novel set in a fictionalised version of St Ives, Cornwall, spanning the period 1875 – 1936, during which time pilchard fishing is replaced by tourism as the main industry in coastal communities. Silver and Salt shows the effect of this shift in industry and identity through the eyes of local woman Pearl who experiences confusion and distress at the changes in her home. She cannot separate the past from the present and is haunted by the disappearance of Nicholas, her great love, in 1889. During a riot caused by disputes over Sunday observance, based on the real-life Newlyn Riots, he vanishes. As her confusion in 1936 increases, Pearl believes that her memories show her what really happened to him. The critical commentary which accompanies the novel focuses on perceptions of Cornwall and discusses Silver and Salt’s efforts to offer a fresh construction of place through the foregrounding of the women of the Cornish pilchard industry, a group marginalised by Cornish history, academia and fiction. The commentary examines the relationship between fiction and tourism promotion in creating perceptions of Cornwall as a timeless exotic ‘other’, focusing on the work of Daphne du Maurier and the Cornish Riviera campaign of the Great Western Railway. In addition, the commentary explores the role of women in the Cornish pilchard industry, how the industry attempted to control their behaviour through its language and system of beliefs, and how the women resisted traditional ideas of femininity through their work. There is also a discussion of the narratological decisions behind the writing of the novel
Date of Award05 Jan 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
Sponsors Arts and Humanities Research Council
SupervisorJem Poster (Supervisor) & Noyes Keller Grovier (Supervisor)

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