What are you reading? – 27 June 2019

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

六月 27, 2019
Stack of books
Source: iStock

Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor and chief executive of the University of Sunderland, is reading Sue Black’s All That Remains: A Life in Death (Doubleday, 2018). “This book offers compelling insight into dealing with the dead. From a Saturday job as a teenager in a butcher’s shop, Black went on to become a distinguished anatomist and forensic archaeologist. Her sensitivity and compassion are ever present. They are there when dealing with those who will eventually donate their bodies to help train the next generation. They survive even in scenes of unimaginable horror such as Kosovo in the late 1990s or after the Asia tsunami in 2004. Yet Black’s unyielding determination and outstanding science have brought evil people to justice and provided solace to the grieving. Reflective throughout, she concludes that her relationship with death is a ‘comfortable camaraderie’. After reading this book, you might feel likewise.”

Nigel Rodenhurst, specialist support lecturer at Aberystwyth University, is reading William Golding’s Rites of Passage (Faber and Faber, 1980). “This fictional ethnography is classic Golding. The novel presents the diary of one Edmund Talbot, who fills the volume with his observations of the behaviour of – and interactions between – the crew and passengers aboard a ship to Australia, a new experience for him and a hiatus experience for those he observes. Besides the prurient people watching and gossip, the diary is steeped in literary allusions that Talbot shares with his uncle, his benefactor and intended reader. These harangue the reader into drawing intertextual comparisons and bring to mind the image of an author who ardently wishes to be canonised. Buried beneath all this is a tragic story of victimisation, suppression of religion, institutionalised sexual abuse and suicide, but for me the broader literary agenda overwhelms the storytelling.”

Geoffrey Alderman, professor of politics at the University of Buckingham, is reading Leeds and Its Jewish Community: A History (edited by Derek Fraser; Manchester University Press, 2019). “The Jewish community of Leeds, the third largest in the UK, boasts a colourful history, captured in this collection of essays (to which I have contributed). As a result of the great Jewish immigration to Britain at the end of the 19th century, Leeds Jewry came to boast a genuine – and genuinely militant – Anglo-Jewish proletariat, which allied itself unashamedly with its non-Jewish comrades (including gas workers) in a grim struggle for survival and betterment. At the same time, the community insisted on playing a full part in the government of the city and in its cultural dimension. These virtues seem to have survived the inevitable move to the suburbs, and the community continues to flourish and to punch well above its weight.”



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