What are you reading? – 8 March 2018

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

March 8, 2018
Reading books
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Carina Buckley, instructional design manager, Southampton Solent University, is reading Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford (edited by Peter Y. Sussman, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006). “Letter-writing is becoming a lost art, so it is a pleasure to read a hefty yet lively batch written initially when letters were the only affordable means of communication with family and friends around the world. When that communication comes from a member of the Mitford family who corresponded regularly with her sisters, Maya Angelou, Katherine Graham and a whole host of others over a span of 62 years, the art and the pleasure are found to an equal degree. Decca herself comes across as spiky, principled, committed and a lot of fun, providing you remained on ‘speakers’ or ‘writers’ with her. The advent of the fax was swiftly absorbed into her correspondence; if she had lived long enough for email, no doubt a second volume would have been needed.”

Stephen Halliday, senior member, Pembroke College, Cambridge, is reading Robin Gwynn’s The Huguenots in Later Stuart Britain, Volume II: Settlement, Churches and the Role of London (Sussex Academic Press, 2017). “This is the second of three volumes that will surely become the definitive study of the resolute and enterprising Huguenot community in Britain. It came as a surprise to this Cambridge dweller that there was a substantial settlement at Thorney in the heart of the Fens, but one is left with an overwhelming impression of the importance of London, with churches in Threadneedle Street, Soho Square (still there) and, of course, Spitalfields. It was England rather than the Netherlands that became the refuge for the Huguenots who set up the silk looms they had carried into exile from the persecutions of Louis XIV. The church they built on the corner of Brick Lane and Fournier Street, Spitalfields, still exists, now a mosque, having previously served as Methodist chapel and Ashkenazi synagogue: a microcosm of the immigrant history of London’s East End.”

Sharon Wheeler, senior lecturer in journalism and PR, University of the West of England, is reading Plum Sykes’ Party Girls Die in Pearls (Bloomsbury, 2017). “If you want crime fiction mixed with a quick and dirty guide to the University of Oxford, public schools and 1980s culture, then you’ll do fine with Party Girls Die in Pearls. Except that it’s not that quick, as the novel is peppered with footnotes to add to the arch asides in the narrative. We witness Oxford through the eyes of the delightfully named fresher Ursula Flowerbutton, who is determined to make her mark on Cherwell, the university newspaper, particularly when she stumbles over a dead body. It’s a good-humoured romp, although it’ll make you feel rather old if you went to university in the 1980s.”

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