What are you reading? – 29 November 2018

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

November 29, 2018
Woman reading a book
Source: iStock

Richard Joyner, emeritus professor of chemistry at Nottingham Trent University, is reading Greg Miller’s The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy (William Collins, 2018). “In a book that everyone should read, Washington Post journalist Greg Miller shows beyond any reasonable doubt that the Russian government of Vladimir Putin is deploying substantial electronic resources to subvert Western institutions and to undermine belief in liberal, democratic values. The old Soviet Union threatened the democracies without, in the end, inflicting much damage. Putin’s Russia may claim to be non-threatening, but Miller shows that it is secretly sowing doubt and generating discord, including through the social media that Silicon Valley has helpfully provided. Over time, the new Russian propaganda machine may turn out to be no better than the Soviet one was. But countering it is essential and will require a unity of political will that seems lacking in Europe and America today.”


Lisa Hopkins, professor of English, Sheffield Hallam University, is reading Maurice Druon’s Les Rois maudits (Livre de Poche, 2005). “I am revisiting these seven books in preparation for a trip to France, although I don’t expect to use as many past subjunctives as Druon, a noted stylist. I first read the series, starting with Le Roi de fer and published between 1955 and 1977, when I was doing Camus’ L’Etranger for A level, without ever seeing a connection between the two authors. Now I wonder how I could have been so stupid. Druon counterpoises the grand récit of 14th-century French history with small moments when fallen power brokers peer through the windows of their prison cells or feel the first stirrings of mortal sickness. The books perfectly deliver on the historical novel’s promise of showing us what it meant for these people to be alive while also making us realise what it means to us that they once lived.”


R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history at the University of Winchester, is reading Grace Huxford’s The Korean War in Britain: Citizenship, Selfhood and Forgetting (Manchester University Press, 2018). “Though its early stages caused panic and anxieties, even by its close three years later the Korean War (1950-53) was becoming a forgotten war. Huxford’s book carefully examines the reasons. Chief among them was the still recent towering memory of the Second World War. By contrast, the Korean War was not a ‘people’s war’, it failed to engage the national imagination and establish itself as part of the usable past. Britain, after all, did not play a major part, and neither the war itself nor its unclear ending could be celebrated by any but surviving veterans. The Vietnam War and the Falklands War, milked for all it was worth by Prime Minister Thatcher, later completed the eclipse of what was viewed by many as no more than a Cold War military sideshow.”

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