What are you reading? – 19 May 2016

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

May 19, 2016
Circle of closely-grouped books photographed from above

Carina Buckley, instructional design manager, Southampton Solent University, is reading Joanne Harris’ Jigs and Reels (Black Swan, 2005). “This generous collection of stories is a veritable biscuit tin of goodies, all set, on the whole, in a world that is unmistakably Harris: magical, fantastical and with perspectives just slightly off-kilter. From old ladies running away to London, to the Japanese neighbour silently offering tea, each story holds a tantalising glimpse of a hidden underside to life and society.”

Harriet Dunbar-Morris, strategic adviser to the vice-chancellor, University of Bradford, is reading Pemberley Revisited (Maia, 2005), Emma Tennant’s two sequels to Pride and Prejudice. “Returning to Pemberley and Elizabeth Bennet’s story is like putting on a pair of comfy shoes; very easy to slip back into! Tennant allows us the opportunity to see what the subsequent lives of the Bennets and Austen’s other main characters might be. So if you were ever curious about what became of Elizabeth, Darcy, Wickham and Mrs Bennet, etc, then this is the book for you. Or if you just fancy a step back in time.”

Sarah Green, associate professor of law, University of Oxford, is reading Iris Bohnet’s What Works: Gender Equality by Design (Harvard University Press, 2016). “If you think you have no gender bias, you should read this book. It will surprise you. Bohnet uses hard evidence to show that complacency about gender equality is dangerous because bias in the workplace remains widespread, entrenched and destructive. Sometimes depressing, always compelling, this work makes it clear how much work has yet to be done.”

Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature, Nottingham Trent University, is reading Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time (Hogarth Shakespeare, 2015). “This spin-off of Shakespeare’s play, set in 21st-century New Orleans, Paris and London, is The Winter’s Tale meets House of Cards. Engrossing and ingenious, it deftly rewrites Shakespeare’s lamentation of destructive jealousy as an indictment of deregulated capitalism. Leo (Leontes) is a hedge-fund manager who (à la John Self from Martin Amis’ Money) is entirely hateful and woefully sympathetic. Suddenly, four pages from the end, Winterson intrudes with awful banalities – ‘Shakespeare loved disguises’; ‘Time can be redeemed’. This is a terrific novel, but tear out the last few pages before you sit down with it.”

Sharon Wheeler, visiting lecturer in media studies, Birmingham City University, is reading Graham Minett’s The Hidden Legacy (Bonnier, 2015). “I’m rather partial to location-spotting when it comes to books set in my part of the world, and Minett’s novel leads the reader down all manner of twisty paths in rural Gloucestershire. He might want to mug up on probate, but otherwise it’s a very tidy and thoughtful debut thriller where a woman is left a cottage by someone she doesn’t know.”

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