Janet Beer, Nick Bevan, E. Stina Lyon, Tony Mann and Roger Numas...

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

April 10, 2014

Janet Beer, vice-chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, is reading Helen Taylor’s Scarlett’s Women: Gone With the Wind and its Female Fans (Virago, 2014). “To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the film adaptation of Gone with the Wind, Virago have re-released this book with a new introduction. Taylor mixes scholarly analysis of Margaret Mitchell’s book, David O. Selznick’s film and their cultural context with the results of her fieldwork with hundreds of devotees of the written and visual text. The result is a beguiling and revealing picture of the Scarlett O’Hara effect: inspiration, vexation and adoration in equal measure.”

Review: Middlemarch, by George Eliot

Nick Bevan, pro vice-chancellor and director of library and student support at Middlesex University, has, “somewhat late in life perhaps”, just finished George Eliot’s Middlemarch (Penguin, 1994). “I had expected this to be hard going but it is a real page-turner. Her recording of conversations where the protagonists can’t convey their inner thoughts is exquisite, painful and seems modern in tone. More broadly, she captures England at a time of transition with the tension between the forces of conservatism and reform perfectly captured.”

Review: Stoner, by John Williams

E. Stina Lyon, professor emeritus of educational development in sociology, London South Bank University, has been reading John Williams’ recently republished novel Stoner: A Novel (Vintage, 2012). “Unlike campus novels rich in humorous exaggerations, Stoner rings achingly and recognisably true in its description of university life as a mixture of a safe haven for mind-driven souls in search of a desk of their own and a hothouse of destructive status conflicts, all of minor significance in the greater order of things. Unbearably sad in its profound insights.”

Review: Quantum Computing Since Democritus, by Scott Aaronson

Tony Mann, director of the mathematics centre at the University of Greenwich, is reading Scott Aaronson’s Quantum Computing since Democritus (Cambridge University Press, 2013). “I wish I could write like Aaronson. He makes outrageous jokes while presenting deep and important (and, for me at least, often rather difficult) ideas crossing many disciplines. This goes straight to the top of my alphabetical-by-author list of favourite books.”

Review: Elizabeth's Spy Master, Robert Hutchinson

Roger Numas, principal lecturer in the School of Health Sciences, University of Brighton, is reading Robert Hutchinson’s Elizabeth’s Spy Master: Francis Walsingham and the Secret War that Saved England (Phoenix, 2007). “An insight into Elizabeth I’s feral Rottweiler of a courtier, whose fanaticism and determination to protect his Protestant queen against heinous Popish plotters was boundless. Walsingham used spies and double agents to eliminate them wherever they lived, combining ruse, deceit and unimaginable cruelty to achieve his goal. The book could have been shortened by omitting some of the trivial details of his family life.”

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