What are you reading? – 2 November 2017

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

November 2, 2017

Kalwant Bhopal, professor of education and social justice, University of Birmingham, is reading Toni Morrison’s The Origin of Others (Harvard University Press, 2017). “‘Race has been a constant arbiter of difference, as have wealth, class and gender – each of which is about power and the necessity of control.’ This, in the first of a series of talks that Morrison delivered at Harvard, gives every indication that she is doing what she does best, using historical, personal and current events to explore how racism continues to divide society. Drawing on issues of globalisation and the mass movement of people, she explores how the presence of others contributes to belonging. The book is as good as I had expected. Morrison’s narrative is both powerful and chilling as she takes us on a journey that shocks and enlightens but forever reminds us that, ‘The definition of Americanness (sadly) remains color for many people.’”

Sharon Wheeler, senior lecturer in journalism and PR, University of the West of England, is reading Phil Rickman’s All of a Winter’s Night (Corvus, 2017). “I don’t usually do either religion or the supernatural in fiction, so why and how I got hooked on this series is lost in the depths of a Herefordshire winter fog. It sounds a bit cheesy to boil it down to the adventures of a female vicar who’s also the diocesan deliverance expert (that’s the exorcist in old money). But the books are steeped in the Herefordshire countryside and its legends, and Rickman is canny enough to dial back on the horror element. This one boasts an opening to make you shriek. And you’ll look twice at morris dancers in future.”

A. W. Purdue, visiting professor of history, Northumbria University, is reading Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate, 2009). “Did I really want to read another novel about Henry VIII, and could this one be as good as the universal acclaim suggested? Well, Mantel, within a historical context that is scrupulously researched, provides new and convincing interpretations of all the principal characters, their actions and motives. Thomas Cromwell’s career is traced from his rough early life to his rise to power as adviser to the king. Contrary to many portrayals, this Cromwell, although ruthless and ambitious, is a likeable and humane man with wide intellectual interests, while Thomas More, often seen as a heroic martyr, emerges as a callous bigot. Mantel’s Anne Boleyn is a magnificent creation. A coldly calculating woman, she preys on the king’s lust for her but frustrates him till marriage is assured; yet she has wit and humour, and the reader feels some sympathy through intimations of her eventual end.”

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