David Eastwood, John Gilbey, Liz Gloyn, Roger Luckhurst and Judie Newman...

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

November 28, 2013

David Eastwood, vice-chancellor, University of Birmingham, is reading Tom Bower’s No Angel: The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone (Faber, 2012). “Here Bower is kinder to his subject than in his previous biographies, perhaps because we all know that Ecclestone is no angel. Bower’s challenge is thus explaining his extraordinary character and influence in making Formula 1 immeasurably more commercial and safer than it was. One is left wondering uneasily whether it was a greater sport when it was neither.”

Farthest North, by Fridtjof Nansen

John Gilbey, who lectures in IT service management at Aberystwyth University, is reading Fridtjof Nansen’s Farthest North (Skyhorse Publishing, 2008). “This is Nansen’s account of his 1893-96 expedition in the Fram, a research ship designed to be deliberately frozen into the Arctic pack ice in an attempt to get the expedition as far north as possible. Almost unbelievably, when they realised they would not drift any closer to the Pole, the Norwegian explorer and part of his team set out by sledge to head even further north – a journey fraught with danger that would last well over a year. The tale of a key voyage of scientific discovery, and a highly eventful one, recounted in a low-key but highly involving way.”

Lolly Willowes, by Sylvia Townsend Warner

Liz Gloyn, lecturer in Classics, Royal Holloway, University of London, is reading Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes (Virago, 2012). “This 1926 novel tells the story of Laura Willowes and her life of domestic dependence as a maiden aunt. Eventually she escapes to the small village of Great Mop in the Chilterns, despite her family’s surprise and disapproval, and discovers an entirely new life for herself. Warner critiques the limited opportunities for single women and offers a mischievous alternative.”

Writing History in the Age of Biomedicine, by Roger Cooter and Claudia Stein

Roger Luckhurst, professor of English at Birkbeck, University of London, is reading Writing History in the Age of Biomedicine (Yale University Press, 2013) by Roger Cooter with Claudia Stein. “Cooter is cross with the state of History. This is a career-spanning collection of essays by the historian of science from the 1970s to the present, with a jeremiad of an introduction that will provoke lively debate. Has evolutionary biology trumped the humanities with a new raid on cultural authority? Are the humanities truly doomed?”

The Siege, by Arturo Perez-Reverte

Judie Newman, professor of American studies at the University of Nottingham, is reading Arturo Pérez Reverte’s The Siege (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2013). “Cádiz 1811: Latin America fighting for its independence, the Spanish fighting for their lives, the French at the gates and a serial killer on the loose. Pérez Reverte recreates a whole world through unforgettable characters, notably Lolita Palma, a lone woman running the family merchant house. History, adventure and philosophy. Unless your Spanish runs to terms of a nautical nature, this is best read in translation.”

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