A weekly look over the shoul­ders of our scholar-re­view­ers

THE (Times Higher Education) - - BOOK OF THE WEEK -

Kal­want Bhopal, pro­fes­sor of ed­u­ca­tion and so­cial jus­tice, Univer­sity of Birm­ing­ham, is reading Toni Mor­ri­son’s The Ori­gin of Oth­ers (Har­vard Univer­sity Press, 2017). “‘Race has been a con­stant ar­biter of dif­fer­ence, as have wealth, class and gen­der – each of which is about power and the ne­ces­sity of con­trol.’ This, in the first of a se­ries of talks that Mor­ri­son de­liv­ered at Har­vard, gives ev­ery in­di­ca­tion that she is do­ing what she does best, us­ing his­tor­i­cal, per­sonal and cur­rent events to ex­plore how racism con­tin­ues to di­vide so­ci­ety. Draw­ing on is­sues of glob­al­i­sa­tion and the mass move­ment of peo­ple, she ex­plores how the pres­ence of oth­ers con­trib­utes to be­long­ing. The book is as good as I had ex­pected. Mor­ri­son’s nar­ra­tive is both pow­er­ful and chilling as she takes us on a jour­ney that shocks and en­light­ens but for­ever re­minds us that, ‘The def­i­ni­tion of Amer­i­can­ness (sadly) re­mains color for many peo­ple.’”

Sharon Wheeler, se­nior lec­turer in jour­nal­ism and PR, Univer­sity of the West of Eng­land, is reading Phil Rick­man’s All of a Win­ter’s Night (Corvus, 2017). “I don’t usu­ally do ei­ther re­li­gion or the su­per­nat­u­ral in fic­tion, so why and how I got hooked on this se­ries is lost in the depths of a Here­ford­shire win­ter fog. It sounds a bit cheesy to boil it down to the ad­ven­tures of a fe­male vicar who’s also the dioce­san de­liv­er­ance expert (that’s the ex­or­cist in old money). But the books are steeped in the Here­ford­shire coun­try­side and its leg­ends, and Rick­man is canny enough to dial back on the hor­ror el­e­ment. This one boasts an open­ing to make you shriek. And you’ll look twice at mor­ris dancers in fu­ture.”

A. W. Pur­due, vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor of his­tory, Northum­bria Univer­sity, is reading Hi­lary Man­tel’s Wolf Hall (Fourth Es­tate, 2009). “Did I re­ally want to read an­other novel about Henry VIII, and could this one be as good as the uni­ver­sal ac­claim sug­gested? Well, Man­tel, within a his­tor­i­cal con­text that is scrupu­lously re­searched, pro­vides new and con­vinc­ing in­ter­pre­ta­tions of all the prin­ci­pal char­ac­ters, their ac­tions and mo­tives. Thomas Cromwell’s ca­reer is traced from his rough early life to his rise to power as ad­viser to the king. Contrary to many por­tray­als, this Cromwell, al­though ruth­less and am­bi­tious, is a like­able and hu­mane man with wide in­tel­lec­tual in­ter­ests, while Thomas More, of­ten seen as a heroic mar­tyr, emerges as a cal­lous bigot. Man­tel’s Anne Bo­leyn is a mag­nif­i­cent cre­ation. A coldly cal­cu­lat­ing woman, she preys on the king’s lust for her but frus­trates him till mar­riage is as­sured; yet she has wit and hu­mour, and the reader feels some sym­pa­thy through in­ti­ma­tions of her even­tual end.”

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