What are you reading? – 15 August 2019

Our fortnightly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

August 15, 2019
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Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor and chief executive of the University of Sunderland, is reading Chris Mullin’s The Friends of Harry Perkins (Scribner UK, 2019). “When Chris Mullin wrote A Very British Coup in 1982, it went on to become one of the best political novels of the late 20th century. Adapted for television twice, it was the story of a left-of-centre prime minister toppled by shadowy Establishment forces. Now, close to 40 years on, The Friends of Harry Perkins is the sequel. In a post-Brexit and rather down-at-heel Britain, Fred Thompson is a new – but not ‘New’ – Labour leader. He has put the party back firmly in the centre ground and has to deal with ugly and reactionary forces, both internally and across the aisle at Westminster. Satisfying in places, not least when it comes to the detail of political life, it is still a frustrating novel that ends before it has really begun.”

Lincoln Allison, emeritus professor of politics at the University of Warwick, is reading Stathis N. Kalyvas’ Modern Greece: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press, 2015). “You can’t really trust a historian who tells you that David Lloyd George was British prime minister in 1913, but this is really an essay aimed at understanding Greece’s traumas in the eurozone. It tells of seven great crises of the Greek state, from the initial defeats in 1819-25 in the War of Independence to the post-2008 economic collapse. The book also covers the disastrous ‘Anatolian Campaign’, which followed the First World War and led to one of the great refugee crises of the 20th century and to the abandonment of the ‘Great Idea’ of reviving the maximal version of the Greek world. Each time, argues Kalyvas, the Greeks performed rather badly but came out rather well largely because of international support and sympathy. It is, if nothing else, a broad and clear thesis.”

John Anchor, professor of international strategy at the University of Huddersfield, is reading David Lawson, Libuse Salomonovicova and Hana Sustkova’s Ostrava and its Jews: ‘Now No-one Sings You Lullabies’ (Vallentine Mitchell, 2018). “The importance of the Jewish population to civic life in central Europe is often underappreciated. Ostrava was originally a small market town in Silesian Moravia in the Kingdom of Austria-Hungary. It was transformed by the linked processes of industrialisation and Jewish immigration from the east into an economic powerhouse. By 1930, its Jewish population, which was 15 per cent of the total, played a key role in its economic, cultural and religious life and was mainly German-speaking. However, this did not prevent its total destruction in the Holocaust. The Jews of Ostrava, now the Czech Republic’s third largest city, have been erased from public view by Nazi annihilation and subsequent Communist neglect of their cemetery and other physical artefacts. This book helps to sets the record straight.”

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