What are you reading? – 28 February 2019

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

February 28, 2019
Man reading tiny book
Source: Alamy

Kalwant Bhopal, professorial research fellow and professor of education and social justice, University of Birmingham, is reading Denis Meikle’s Johnny Depp (revised edition, Titan Books, 2011). “This remarkable biography charts the life of John Christopher Depp II, otherwise known as the actor Johnny Depp. Meikle takes the reader on a journey through his life: from his birth, dropping out of high school, becoming a musician, following a remarkable twist of fate that led to his becoming one of the biggest icons on our screens. By exploring his troubled past – such as Depp’s clashes with the law and the paparazzi – as well as his far-from-perfect roles as son, father and lover, he leaves the reader both sympathetic and admiring, as well as appreciative of the powerful cinematic presence the actor has managed to acquire.”


Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor and chief executive at the University of Sunderland, is reading Manda Scott’s A Treachery of Spies (Bantam, 2018). “After acclaimed novels on Roman Britain and the dark underbelly of contemporary Scotland, Manda Scott’s latest book is a multi-layered thriller that connects the Second World War to the modern day. The story begins in Orléans with the killing of a former protégé of the Special Operations Executive. Other equally gruesome murders follow. Under the watchful eye of police captain Inès Picaut, a character from an earlier Scott novel, nobody is quite what they seem, now or in the past. As well as being a convincing whodunnit, the book is strong on detail surrounding the Maquis, the shadowy resistance movement in Vichy France. It also reflects the moral ambiguities of the period and how the line between friends and enemies could sometimes blur.”

Stephen Halliday, senior member of Pembroke College, Cambridge, is reading Naim Attallah’s A Scribbler in Soho: A Celebration of Auberon Waugh (Quartet, 2018). “Auberon Waugh was the most prominent and controversial member of the third generation of a dynasty that has surely contributed more to modern English literature than any other. Naim Attallah, his friend and mentor, has given us this memento of the man and some of his more notable writings, although the excursions into the libel actions that were visited upon him are sometimes convoluted and of little obvious relevance. The younger Waugh’s biting verdicts upon the modern world are often of a kind that would have been endorsed by his father, yet Auberon’s kind, amiable and forgiving personality was evidently far from that of the melancholy and forbidding Evelyn. The book has driven this reader to seek out and reread many of Auberon’s diaries and other works.”

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