In the middle of the landscape that unfolds in front of Hellens, the haunted Tudor manor house in the Herefordshire village of Much Marcle where Margaret Atwood is staying, there is an elephant waving its trunk in the air. At first glance it appears both lifelike and appropriate: why wouldn’t there be an elephant here, roaming in the long grass by the lake? In this other-worldly place there are also a pond, looming trees and a Victorian vegetable garden. Someone observes that it all feels a little Beatrix Potter, like Mr McGregor’s garden come to life. But this is not the kind of remark you can make lightly in the company of Margaret Atwood, who suggests that Mr McGregor’s garden actually had more rows, and was tidier. Soon enough she is expounding on the seduction narrative of Jemima Puddle-Duck, Potter’s influential Gothicism and the misunderstood heroism of Benjamin Bunny.