A weekly look over the shoul­ders of our scholar-re­view­ers

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

A. W. Pur­due, vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor in his­tory, Northum­bria Univer­sity, is read­ing Christo­pher Howse’s Soho in the Eight­ies (Blooms­bury, 2018). “This book takes us on a pub crawl largely con­fined to the Coach and Horses, the French Pub and a few places such as the Colony Room Club, where drink was avail­able after the of­fi­cial 3pm clos­ing time for pub­lic houses. Christo­pher Howse is an au­thor­ity on re­li­gion, but he is as much at home with the bibu­lous as the nu­mi­nous, and makes an ex­cel­lent guide to this cor­ner of Soho and its reg­u­lar drinkers. Some­one who asked about the strange smell in the in­salu­bri­ous Kis­met Club was told it was ‘fail­ure’, but al­though it was the worst of form to boast of suc­cess, one could hardly de­scribe Fran­cis Ba­con or Tom Baker as fail­ures. Many of Howse’s com­pan­ions were in­tel­li­gent and cre­ative men who liked to drink in the com­pany of each other and any­one who wasn’t a bore. Place, time and at­mos­phere are skil­fully evoked and, for the reader, there is no hang­over.”

Ca­rina Buck­ley, in­struc­tional de­sign man­ager, So­lent Univer­sity, is read­ing Sarah Win­man’s

Tin Man (Head­line, 2018). “El­lis works in a car fac­tory in Cow­ley, bang­ing flaws out of the body­work. His own dents re­main un­per­ceived by those around him, but in lay­ers of flash­backs we see his emo­tional scar­ring, and how it was formed from great love and great loss. When the nar­ra­tion switches to Michael, El­lis’ best friend, the fo­cus of the story also switches, to an ex­am­i­na­tion of de­ci­sions made and the re­grets that are in­evitable when it is im­pos­si­ble to fol­low a cer­tain path. The book as a whole con­tains a fat droplet of time – a rich and beau­ti­ful char­ac­ter study that re­mains com­pelling de­spite the lack of a gal­lop­ing nar­ra­tive. Like Win­man’s pre­vi­ous work, this is in­sight­ful, gen­tle and mov­ing.”

Lin­coln Al­li­son, emer­i­tus reader in pol­i­tics, Univer­sity of War­wick, is read­ing To­masi Di Lampe­dusa’s

The Leop­ard (Vin­tage, 2007). “At last, on the boat from Livorno to Pa­lermo, I read the great Si­cil­ian novel. Lampe­dusa’s Leop­ard is the story of a Si­cil­ian aris­to­crat in the Risorg­i­mento writ­ten by his de­scen­dant a cen­tury later. It was ini­tially re­jected by pub­lish­ers and only ap­peared, after Lampe­dusa’s death, in 1958. Even in trans­la­tion the writ­ing is ex­traor­di­nar­ily dense, laced with ideas and im­agery and wit. Given the tur­bu­lent times (mainly 1860-62), rel­a­tively lit­tle hap­pens, but what does hap­pen seems to mat­ter. The sense of so­cial and po­lit­i­cal change is re­morse­less rather than dra­matic, and it is ac­com­pa­nied by an al­most mys­ti­cal sense of con­ti­nu­ity. I have read very few nov­els that carry such a sharp sense of time and place as this one. It started a de­bate in our cabin about the great­est novel of the 20th cen­tury.”

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