What are you reading? – June 2020

A look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

June 22, 2020
Source: iStock

Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature at Nottingham Trent University, is reading Jeanette Winterson’s Frankissstein (Jonathan Cape, 2019). “Two narratives criss-cross throughout and illuminate each other: Mary Shelley’s rain-soaked sojourn on Lake Geneva in the company of Byron, Shelley, Dr Polidori and Claire Clairmont, philosophising by candlelight and frightening each other with gothic tales; and, much more hilariously, the complicated intercourse (in every sense) of their contemporary incarnations. Dr Ry (short for Mary) Shelley is a transgender medic engaged in obtaining body parts for Professor Victor Stein, who is pioneering the digitisation of the human mind. Ron Lord (Lord Byron’s spin-off) is a Welsh sex-bot dealer, Polly D an intrusive newspaper journalist, animated by Stein’s sensational research, and Claire a Christian fundamentalist from Memphis. The serious questions about self, sex, identity and the morality of creation don’t really survive the plot’s comic absurdity, but the structural deployment of the double narrative is impressive.”

A. W. Purdue, visiting reader at the Open University, is reading Simon Parkin’s A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Secret Game that Won the War (Sceptre, 2019). “The game that enabled the Royal Navy to counter the threat of the U-boats to British convoys in 1941 was played on the floor of Western Approaches HQ in Liverpool. The players were led by Captain Gilbert Roberts, who had been retired out of the Navy with tuberculosis, but most of his team were young women. U-boat commanders had come up with a strategy of slipping into a convoy undetected, sinking as many vessels as possible, and then diving down to let the remaining ships pass over them. The response developed, code-named ‘Raspberry’, was for escorting warships to scour the area behind the convoy and then depth-charge any U-boats detected there. Parkin has retrieved from obscurity a chapter of the Second World War that highlights the role of service women, many of whom never even told their families about their experiences.”

Sharon Wheeler, senior lecturer in journalism and PR at the University of the West of England, Bristol, is reading issue 7 of Rugby Journal (2019). “Who knew that rugby needed a publication which describes itself as a ‘coffee-table journal’? Given you can never have too much classy sports writing, I’m more than happy to display this quarterly magazine that boasts the word count of a novel – and there’s not a groin strain in sight. Previous issues have included interviews with big names such as Danny Cipriani, Alun Wyn Jones and Henry Slade alongside lesser-known faces and clubs. Issue 7, though, is dubbed ‘Our Rugby Planet’ – and the intelligent features really are a world away from the World Cup in Japan, exploring how rugby is helping reunite Rwanda and the situation of the sport in Israel, where the country’s top team is based on a kibbutz.”


Print headline: What are you reading? – 25 June 2020

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