What are you reading? – 14 November 2019

A look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers 

November 14, 2019
Open books

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history at the University of Winchester, is reading Rosemary O’Day’s An Elite Family in Early Modern England: The Temples of Stowe and Burton Dassett, 1570-1656 (Boydell, 2018). “Weighing almost a kilo, this is in every sense a hefty tome, and it operates very successfully at two levels. Most obviously, it is an incredibly detailed and meticulously researched micro, multi-plot study of the structure, dynamics and vicissitudes of one particular Midlands family, with the marriage partnership of Thomas and Hester Temple as its centrepiece. At the macro-level, its many comparisons with other family histories and references to wider issues raised by previous historians such as Lawrence Stone and Anthony Fletcher make it a rewarding window through which to view themes such as patriarchy, patronage, kinship, gender and generational relations, widowhood, household and estate management, lifestyle and elite culture. It is a model of its kind.”

June Purvis, emeritus professor of women’s and gender history at the University of Portsmouth, is reading Samantha Caslin’s Save the Womanhood! Vice, Urban Immorality and Social Control in Liverpool, c. 1900-1976 (Liverpool University Press, 2018). “This history of promiscuity, prostitution and the efforts of social purists to ‘save’ working-class women in Liverpool from themselves makes insightful reading. The Liverpool Vigilance Association, the Women’s Police Patrols, the Liverpool House of Help and the Catholic Women’s League helped many unfortunates, but also engaged in a form of ‘moral surveillance’ on the streets. When these female-run organisations went into decline in the post-war years, official institutions and law enforcement agencies increasingly took up the cause. Although social purists’ preventive work has little space in today’s moral economy, the debate about women’s use of public space continues.”

Carina Buckley, instructional design manager at Solent University, is reading Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2014). “A collection of poetry that began life on Instagram and ended up as a New York Times best-seller. The four chapters that make up this slim volume address the hope, pain, heartbreak and healing inherent in the act of falling in love with another person, as well as the violence – personal and societal – that derives from being a woman. Delicate line drawings by the author complement the words. Other reviews comment on the power, rawness and relatability of the poems. I remain confused by the uneven mix of platitudes dressed up as profundities, self-care aphorisms and the occasional genuine insight, which together give the impression of reading a teenager’s diary – which, in a way, we are. There’s promise here, but disappointment, too.”

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