What are you reading? – 27 October 2016

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

October 27, 2016
An open book at twilight
Source: iStock

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history at the University of Winchester, is reading Anthony Fletcher’s Growing up in England: The Experience of Childhood, 1600-1914 (Yale University Press, 2008). “Here, based chiefly on diaries and letters from family archives (his own included), Fletcher offers a systematic, insightful treatment of boyhood, girlhood and parenthood among upper- and middle-class families over three centuries. Home life, education, travel, social interactions and friendships, love and marriage, and the formation of gendered and national stereotypes all find their place. The stress on unchanging continuities may at times be overdone, and it certainly encourages too much chronological hopping about in the juxtaposition of examples. As a kind of sequel to his earlier book on Gender, Sex and Subordination in England, 1500-1800 (1995), it is perhaps too densely detailed at times but nonetheless makes absorbing reading.”

Helen Taylor, emeritus professor of English, University of Exeter, is reading Rosie Jackson’s The Glass Mother: A Memoir (Unthank Books, 2016). “This is a raw, at times distressingly honest account of a brilliant academic facing the challenges and complacencies of a patriarchal academy in the early days of feminism. A student mother, Jackson gradually loses touch with her beloved son as her career blossoms, then spectacularly explodes. Writing with a novelist’s flair, the author gives a recognisable account of higher education in the 1970s and 1980s, with fascinating insights into the working conditions in the new 1960s universities – Warwick and East Anglia – compared with the first round of poorly resourced polytechnics. An intensely personal story of maternal deprivation, relationships and emotional breakdown, and the discovery of new joy and security in following an Indian guru, this beautifully written memoir deserves wide readership within and beyond the academic community.”

Cary Cooper, 50th anniversary professor of organisational psychology and health, University of Manchester, is reading Nicholas Best’s Five Days That Shocked the World: Eyewitness Accounts from Europe at the End of World War II (Osprey, 2012). “Given that I am a baby boomer, and the child of Eastern European Jewish parents, I have long been fascinated by the Second World War. This book provides first-hand narratives of the dramatic upheavals that took place in just five days from 28 April to 2 May 1945. It includes everything from the deaths of Mussolini and Hitler to the liberation of Dachau, the American capture of Munich and the fall of Berlin, but also taking in the experiences of Audrey Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich. A great historical canvas described by the people who experienced the events directly or from afar, this is a book you can’t put down or ever forget.”

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