The format of the Unlocking the Law series is designed to save degree-level students from being overwhelmed by “page after page of continuous prose”. Students will no doubt welcome this and be attracted by clear print, numerous side-headings and a variety of boxes.
Yet a textbook has to be judged on its content, and in this respect the text is disappointing. For a book designed to “unlock” its subject, there is little explanation of basic principles, and land law still appears as a succession of arbitrary rules to be memorised without understanding.
Moreover, the text is often inaccurate. Statutory provisions relating to leases for “not more than” a prescribed period are described as dealing with leases “for less than” that period, and there is confusion between covenantors and covenantees, and their burdens and benefits.
Other errors are more significant. To say that the interests of a person in occupation are not overriding if the rights are “not apparent and not actually known” reinforces the usual misreading of the statutory provision and does nothing to clarify it. Again, students may well be mystified by the statement that “common law did not recognise a mortgage”, followed as it is by a description of the way in which equity allowed redemption after the legal date for repayment had passed.
In short, students will welcome this book for its layout and style, but it may prove an unreliable guide.
Mary Phillips is associate lecturer in law, Surrey University.
Unlocking Land Law. First edition
Author - Judith Bray
Publisher - Hodder and Stoughton
Pages - 486
Price - £18.99
ISBN - 0 340 81564 7