What are you reading? – 18 October 2018

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

October 18, 2018
Open books

Carina Buckley, instructional design manager, Solent University, is reading Naomi Alderman’s The Power (Penguin, 2017). “It begins with Roxy, a teenage girl caught at home one night by two burly men who have come to send a message via her mother, the kind of message you don’t need to speak to pass on. It ends with a reassessment of the whole world, and yet not, as it remains a place where power can be taken, held, used and abused. On release, the novel was hailed as radical for imagining women with the power that men held and still currently hold. But it is much broader than that, examining power in all its forms: political, economic, religious and as a witness. That Alderman uses gender inversion to illustrate this is almost beside the point.”

John Gilbey, who teaches in the department of computer science at Aberystwyth University, is reading Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness (William Collins, 2018). “In the late 1950s, writer Edward Abbey worked for the US National Park Service at Arches National Monument near Moab, Utah, a remote and perhaps forbidding area of the high desert. Desert Solitaire, originally published in 1968, is his account of life as a seasonal ranger, managing camp grounds, helping visitors and – perhaps most important – sitting alone gazing at the landscape for extended periods of time. His prose is occasionally rough and ready, like the landscape, and his outlook on the relationship between humanity and the environment is at times bitter but always passionate. The detail of his description gives an intimate sense of place, and the fervour of his arguments against the development of our remaining wild spaces has, perhaps, never been more timely.”

Sharon Wheeler, senior lecturer in journalism and PR, University of the West of England, is reading Darragh Martin’s Future Popes of Ireland (Fourth Estate, 2018). “It’s 1979 and Bridget Doyle has decided that her family has to produce the first Irish pope. The only hitch is that one grandchild is female, the second is gay, the third a loafer and the fourth is never mentioned. But when an Irish grandmother has her heart set on a result, these are all minor hitches in the scheme of things. This turned out to be a topical book, 39 years on, given the present pope’s recent visit to the Republic of Ireland. It’s a sprawling, rather charming novel, although the characterisation takes a fairly distant second to the faintly whimsical voice (think Roddy Doyle with slightly less cussing).”

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