What are you reading? – 17 September 2015

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

September 17, 2015
Books on bookshelf

Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor, University of Reading, is reading David Eastwood’s Government and Community in the English Provinces, 1700-1870 (Palgrave Macmillan, 1997). “Sir David Eastwood, vice-chancellor of the University of Birmingham, is also a distinguished British historian, and this book is a useful antidote to those who focus exclusively on the development of the national polity. Drawing extensively on local archives, the book describes vibrant activity at the parish, district and county levels. It reminds us too that tension between central and local government is not a new phenomenon.”

Vicky Duckworth, senior lecturer in educational research, Edge Hill University, is reading Emily Dugan’s Finding Home: Real Stories of Migrant Britain (Icon, 2015). “Home: it’s a short, simple word, but into it Dugan sows sincere and powerful seeds via the stories of a group of migrants struggling to settle in the UK. Their hopes, dreams and fears fill each page in defiance of the media flood of shocking, negative stereotypes. We learn how people like teaching assistant Klaudia and LGBT activist Aderonke, among others, deeply enrich their adoptive country with their energy, enthusiasm and faith in humanity.”

Caroline Magennis, lecturer in 20th and 21st century literature, University of Salford, is reading Sara Baume’s Spill Simmer Falter Wither (Tramp Press, 2015). “This extraordinary novel was recommended to me by just about everyone I know. It is a vivid debut that shows that Baume is a talent to keep an eye on: her careful rendering of landscape complements the visceral descriptions of human and animal life. It is a sweepingly poetic and heartbreaking meditation on life after grief that I won’t quickly forget.”

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading Anne Higonnet’s A Museum of One’s Own: Private Collecting, Public Gift (Periscope, 2010). “A fascinating comparative study of six prestigious art museums built to immortalise founders such as Henry and Arabella Huntington, Henry Clay Frick and Isabella Stewart Gardner, and to make their collections accessible to a gawping public. Their contribution to escalating prices in the art world is considered, as is the founders’ reliance on agents, and sometimes crooked art historians and dealers.”

Nigel Rodenhurst, part-time lecturer in English, Aberystwyth University, is reading Andrea Levy’s The Long Song (Headline Review, 2011). “A historical tale set in the last years of slavery in Jamaica, Levy’s fifth novel will not disappoint anyone familiar with her earlier work. The perspective of a dishonest, cunning, uneducated but highly intelligent narrator is a masterstroke on Levy’s part, executed with effortless ease, which constantly heightens the reader’s sense of being in the midst of events depicted.”

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