Philip Kemp, Peet Morris, James I. Rogers, Bruce Scharlau and Sharon Wheeler...

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

June 12, 2014

Philip Kemp, visiting lecturer in film journalism, University of Leicester, is reading Patrick Leigh Fermor’s The Violins of Saint-Jacques (Oxford University Press, 1953). “Inspired by the explosion of Mount Pelée on Martinique in 1902 and set on a fictional French Caribbean island around the turn of the 20th century, this is Leigh Fermor’s only novel, and it is barely more than novella length. He takes evident delight in evoking the island’s reactionary expatriate-French society in richly coloured detail, and his account of a grand ball, and the natural cataclysm that overwhelms it, offers a dazzling tour de force of exuberantly baroque prose.”

Book review: The Quantum Age, by Brian Clegg

Peet Morris, researcher in experimental psychology, University of Oxford, is reading Brian Clegg’s The Quantum Age: How the Physics of the Very Small Has Transformed Our Lives (Icon, 2014). “There are a lot of popular science books about quantum physics, but this isn’t a mere ‘me too’. It’s not that Clegg doesn’t explain the basics of quantum theory; he does that exceptionally well. But what sets this book apart is the way it focuses on the applications of quantum physics – the things that have changed our lives and brought us to what Clegg calls the ‘quantum age’. Truly fascinating.”

Book review: Russia and the World Since 1917, by Caroline Kennedy-Pipe

James I. Rogers, doctoral candidate and tutor in international politics, University of Hull, is reading Caroline Kennedy-Pipe’s Russia and the World Since 1917 (Arnold, 1998). “Worthy of its recent revival and academic acclaim, this book reminds us that rebellion in Eastern Europe against Russian tutelage is neither uncommon nor something that should be ignored. For it is these events that shaped the nature of international politics throughout the 20th century, and will likely continue to do so throughout this one.”

Book review: Geisha, by Lesley Downer

Bruce Scharlau, senior teaching fellow in computing science, University of Aberdeen, is reading Lesley Downer’s Geisha: The Secret History of a Vanishing World (Headline, 2001). “This wonderful, lively study by an author who lived in the Gion area of Kyoto provides a near-insider’s view of geisha in Japan. The ‘flower and willow world’ is followed from its historical beginnings to the modern day and is let down only by limited illustrations and too little exploration of the views of the wives of geishas’ clients.”

Book review: Look Who's Back, by Timur Vermes

Sharon Wheeler, senior lecturer in journalism, University of Portsmouth, is reading Timur Vermes’ Look Who’s Back (MacLehose Press, 2014). “ ‘I’ve seen Downfall. Twice. Bruno Ganz was superb, but he’s not a patch on you.’ And those lines sum up perfectly this dark comedy in which Hitler wakes up on some waste ground in Berlin in 2011, and finds himself propelled into TV stardom in a country full of immigrants and run by a woman. It’s a clever satire on media stardom, for all that it is a single gag stretched a tad thin.”

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