What are you reading? – January 2021

A look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

December 28, 2020
woman reading in a bookshop
Source: iStock

The late A. W. Purdue, visiting reader in history at the Open University, was reading Robert Lacey’s Battle of Brothers: William, Harry and the Inside Story of a Family in Tumult (William Collins, 2020). “Anyone interested in the British monarchy will have been transfixed by the departure of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex from royal duties. Robert Lacey, combining his expertise as a historian and biographer with a wealth of contacts, reveals the tension between princes William and Harry that led to this drama. Central to their differences was the awkward position of the younger son, whose position in line to the throne goes down with each child born to the elder and who then has the difficult task of finding a role for himself. This was something Harry, less well-educated than his brother and more scarred by his parents’ divorce and the circumstances of his mother’s death, was ill-equipped to do. Lacey’s account of the latest travail of the House of Windsor makes for fascinating reading.”

Carina Buckley, instructional design manager at Solent University, Southampton, is reading Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (Vintage, 1992). “Downtrodden and dowdy Evelyn Couch is befriended by the elderly and irrepressible Ninny Threadgoode, and over her weekly visits to Ninny’s nursing home she learns about the friends and neighbours of the little town of Whistle Stop, Alabama, and the lives they lived – and the lives that ended – decades earlier, inspiring her to transform her life. Despite the heavily packaged nostalgia, this is a heart-warming story that progressively brings the characters to life through carefully structured flashbacks blending the past and the present and emphasising the importance of connectedness. The style is folksy, but at the book’s core is a tale of deep and abiding love, and of how the true value of friendship is in the freedom it gives you to be yourself.”

Peet Morris, former lecturer in statistics at the University of Oxford, is reading Tim Gregory’s Meteorite: The Stones from Outer Space that Made Our World (John Murray, 2020). “Viewers of the BBC television series Astronaut: Do You Have What It Takes? will already have ‘met’ the author of Meteorite as a contestant. He was the wide-eyed, super-excited one with a Yorkshire accent. He reveals a similar enthusiasm for the subject he studied for his PhD – cosmochemistry, or the chemistry of stuff from space – in this book. Gregory is a natural storyteller, and we go at a good pace learning about meteorites (obviously), but also some history, physics and anthropology. Who knew rocks from space could be so very interesting, or that their story could be told in such an engaging, sometimes humorous page-turner? I highly recommend it.”

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