What are you reading? – 5 March 2020

A look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

March 5, 2020
Pile of books falling over
Source: iStock

Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature at Nottingham Trent University, is reading Jeanette Winterson’s The Daylight Gate (Hammer, 2013). “This grimly compelling novella is set in 1612. Jacobean England, paranoid in the wake of the Gunpowder Plot, is persecuting what the zealous inquisitor, Master Thomas Potts, calls ‘popery witchery witchery popery’. Alice Nutter, a dangerously independent and successful entrepreneur, allows a group of rural poor to live in Malkin Tower on her estate. But the gathering turns out to be a coven with pin-pricked poppets and a severed head that pontificates. The horror is less in these grisly incidents than the gruelling cruelty of imprisonment, torture, abuse and religious corruption. The magus Dr John Dee, the occultist Edward Kelley and the ‘old penman’ Shakespeare all make cameo appearances, the last glumly sceptical of the period’s fervid suspicions: ‘You can get arrested for anything these days.’ It’s a vibrant evocation of a dingy, surly world.”


John Anchor, professor of international strategy at the University of Huddersfield, is reading Martin Parker’s Shut Down the Business School: What’s Wrong with Management Education (Pluto Press, 2018). “As a business school academic, I should perhaps declare a pecuniary interest in the topic of this short book. In Parker’s view, B-schools, as he calls them, uncritically promote a neoliberal view of capitalism, despite the 2008 financial crisis and the corporate scandals that preceded it. Initiatives such as the United Nations Principles on Responsible Management Education, now accepted by many business schools, are mere window dressing compared to the gravitational force of, for example, accreditation initiatives. Business schools, therefore, should be replaced by schools of organising, relevant to entities other than Anglo-Saxon shareholder-maximising corporations. Although many academics avoid biting the hand that feeds them, it is perhaps noteworthy that some of the most trenchant critics of business schools – such as Parker – are to be found within, rather than without, the academy.”


Kalwant Bhopal, professorial research fellow and professor of education and social justice at the University of Birmingham, is reading Colm Tóibín’s Nora Webster (Penguin, 2015). “Nora Webster is a beautiful story of a woman who is recently widowed. The book explores how she, because of the sudden loss of her husband, faces an uncertain future in which she must now raise her four children alone. With little money and suffocated in a small community in Wexford, Ireland, Nora feels she must break away from prying eyes where everyone knows your business. The intensity of her grief is explored through her desire to live her life again. In a novel that is funny, moving and uplifting as well as heartbreaking, Tóibín elegantly explores how hope after such sadness can be restored – Nora is able to rebuild her life and through the discovery of music, friendship and love to live again.”

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