Deborah Cohen, Helen Fulton, Liz Gloyn, Stephen Halliday and R. C. Richardson...

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

March 5, 2015

Deborah Cohen, professor of history, Northwestern University, is reading Matt Cook’s Queer Domesticities: Homosexuality and Home Life in Twentieth-Century London (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). “Framed by a set of evocative case studies that take us from the House Beautiful of the 1890s to the gay liberation bedsit of the 1970s, Cook persuasively demonstrates that the more you scrutinise the home, the more intersections you see between the so-called ‘normative’ worlds of domesticity and privacy and their queer variants. It’s a book that deftly balances the individual and the general to reach compelling conclusions about both.”

Book review: Chronicles of the First Crusade, edited by Christopher Tyerman

Helen Fulton, professor of medieval literature, University of Bristol, is reading Chronicles of the First Crusade, edited by Christopher Tyerman (Penguin, 2012). “Proclaimed by Pope Urban II in 1095, the First Crusade culminated in the capture of Jerusalem in 1099. Tyerman has divided the story into chronological sections, from Urban’s call to arms to the ghastly slaughter inflicted on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and provides eyewitness accounts from Western, Jewish and Muslim writers. A fascinating and disturbing piece of living history.”

Book review: Villette, by Charlotte Bronte

Liz Gloyn, lecturer in Classics, Royal Holloway, University of London, is reading Charlotte Brontë’s Villette (Penguin, 2004). “Lucy Snowe ends up as an English teacher in the small town of Villette (a fictional version of Brussels) and narrates to the reader affairs of the heart and of her profession. The figure of M. Paul Emanuel and his emotionally abusive relationship with Lucy sends shivers up the spine. As the book progresses, the reader increasingly questions Lucy’s interpretation of events, until the unexpected resolution.”

Book review: The Best of ‘Dear Bill’: The Collected Letters of Denis Thatcher

Stephen Halliday, panel tutor in history, Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge, is reading Richard Ingrams’ and John Wells’ The Best of ‘Dear Bill’: The Collected Letters of Denis Thatcher (André Deutsch, 1986). “A satirical ‘insider’s’ view of the Thatcher years, delivered with a sharp humour and political incorrectness of which Aristophanes would have been proud. Too funny to read in public because of the risk of embarrassment. A classic.”

Book review: Belle: The True Story of Dido Belle, by Paula Byrne

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading Paula Byrne’s Belle: The True Story of Dido Belle (William Collins, 2014). “In the wake of the 2013 Amma Asante film, this book examines the intriguing history of an illegitimate mixed-race girl who was adopted by Lord Chief Justice Mansfield in the late 18th century and who may have influenced his landmark legal judgments that assisted in the eventual abolition of the slave trade. Byrne’s surmisings attempt to fill in the gaps in the story, and Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park is appealed to by way of comparison.”

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