Megan Crawford, Sir David Eastwood, Mary Ha, June Purvis and Peter J. Smith...

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

November 13, 2014

Megan Crawford, professor of education and director of Plymouth University’s Institute of Education, is reading Ian Rankin’s Saints of the Shadow Bible (Orion, 2014). “Maybe it’s because I have just become head of department, but I particularly enjoyed this book with its plotline of old friendships and discovering where your loyalties lie. Not, of course, that I am expecting to emulate DS Rebus as a role model. Rankin has brought back Rebus very effectively, I think, and I enjoyed every minute of the read.”

Book review: Red or Dead, by David Peace

Sir David Eastwood, vice-chancellor, University of Birmingham, is reading David Peace’s Red or Dead (Faber, 2013). “Good biographies of football managers are rare; novels about them rarer still. Peace here offers us a hybrid: novel as biography. More affectionate than his earlier book The Damned United, this improvisation on the life of Bill Shankly is an experiment that largely succeeds. He even finds ways of making team sheets sound lyrical, although the repetition can seem redundant. What lingers is the sadness of success, where a man’s identification with club and fans robbed him of the inner life and hinterland that ultimately make contentment possible.”

Book review: Death on the Nile, by Agatha Christie

Mary Ha, academic administrator, London College of Communication, University of the Arts London, is reading Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile (Heron, 1976). “Having watched the films countless times since I was a child, reading the book was not a disappointment. Images of the film versions kept flashing through my mind but it wasn’t a distraction. Written quite clearly and with the feel of ‘make every scene count’, here Christie’s Poirot is as much of a tour de force on paper as he has seemed on screen.”

Book review: The Times Great Women's Lives, foreword by Lucy Worsley

June Purvis, professor of women’s and gender history, University of Portsmouth, is reading The Times Great Women’s Lives: A Celebration in Obituaries, edited by Sue Corbett (History Press, 2013). “A wonderful read about courageous women of the past, which tells us much about how a particular form of national biography evolved and changed over time. Apparently, ‘good looks’ are often important in the greatness of women, at least to obituary writers. And being on the Left politically, struggling for change, helps to achieve greatness. A book to dip into and savour.”

Book review: Simple Goalkeeping Made Spectacular, by Graham Joyce

Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature, Nottingham Trent University, is reading Graham Joyce’s Simple Goalkeeping Made Spectacular (Mainstream Publishing, 2009). “Cajoled out of retirement in his early fifties to keep goal for England, Joyce finds himself at the (Writers’) World Cup facing Italy. By turns he is autobiographer, pundit and gobshite. The prose is as deft and athletic as the English team is outclassed and knackered. His intemperate raillery is brilliantly facetious: since the 1990s, ‘keepers started to appear in shitty psychedelic sweaters that looked like they’d been designed by a depressed LSD casualty funded by an arts council grant’. Withering, hilarious stuff.”

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