Alumni summer reads

11th July 2017

News, Alumni news

Wadham alumni have penned a variety of books to keep you busy over the summer. Read on for details.

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This Ghastly Affair: Great War Letters from the Leathersellers’ Archives by Jerome Farrell (History, 1976)

Marking the centenary of the First World War and honouring the memory of those who served, the Leathersellers’ Company has published This Ghastly Affair: Great War Letters from the Leathersellers’ Archives, written by Jerome Farrell, the Company’s Archivist.

Based on a surprise cache of letters, discovered in the Company archives, and written to the Clerk throughout the War by three junior office staff who volunteered for service, the book gives us a fascinating insight into the experiences of three young Londoners caught up in what one of them refers to as ‘this ghastly affair’.

Horace Blake, Wallace Allen and Cyril Glaysher joined different regiments:  the Royal Garrison Artillery, the Royal West Surrey Regiment and the Rifle Brigade. Two were sent to the Western Front, and write directly from the trenches. Allen was sent out to India to defend the Empire – a less familiar aspect of this conflict – and saw action on the North-West Frontier; to his dismay he was not sent home till late 1919, as troops were kept on to deal with riots in the Punjab and then the Third Afghan War.

This Ghastly Affair also describes how a London Livery Company responded to the First World War. The illustrated  hardback book may be obtained from the Leathersellers’ Company.  All proceeds from sales will be donated to the British Red Cross.

Spanish Crossings by John Simmons (English, 1966)

Spanish Crossings is an epic tale of love, politics and conflict, with the yearning but elusive possibility of redemption.

We meet Lorna in London, 1937, as she falls in love with Harry, a member of the International Brigade who had been in Spain at Guernica when it was bombed. Harry is then killed in the fighting and Lorna fears she might have lost her best chance of happiness. Can she fill the void created by Harry's death by helping the child refugees of the conflict? She finds a particular connection to one boy, Pepe, and as he grows up below the radar of the authorities in England their lives become increasingly intertwined. But can Lorna rely on Pepe as he remains deeply pulled towards the homeland and family that have been placed beyond his reach? Coming through the war, then the post-war rebuilding, Lorna and Pepe's relationship will be tested by their tragic and emotive history.

John Simmons comments: “Stories are often the strongest foundation for revealing a truth, and there is still so much we don’t know – or have forgotten – about the Spanish Civil War and the impacts of that conflict. I wanted to write a story of courage and love and hope, but one that was inspired by real events. Spanish refugee Jesus Iguaran Aramburu, was ‘adopted’ by my own parents in 1937, and this act of kindness forms the heart of my novel.”  

Spanish Crossings is published by Urbane Publications

The Oystercatcher Girl by Gabrielle Barnby, née Cooke (Human Sciences, 1995)

In the medieval splendour of St Magnus Cathedral, three women gather to mourn the untimely passing of Robbie: Robbie's widow, Tessa; Tessa's old childhood friend, Christine, and Christine's unstable and unreliable sister, Lindsay.

But all is not as it seems: what is the relationship between the three women, and Robbie? What secrets do they hide? And who has really betrayed who?

Set amidst the spectacular scenery of the Orkney Islands, Gabrielle Barnby's skilfully plotted first novel is a beautifully understated story of deception and forgiveness, love and redemption.

Reviewing the novel, writer Dr Sarah Bailey comments: “From the opening and the ‘fleshy light of St. Magnus’ we are drawn in first and foremost by the lyrical, lilting language of this beautifully crafted novel. Barnby manages to capture the soft, sing-song tones of the Orcadian voice without missing a beat. I can hear those voices as clearly as if they were in the same room and I cannot stress enough how difficult this is to achieve – I am full of admiration for this alone.”

The Oystercatcher Girl is published by ThunderPoint Publishing

Waiting for the Nightingale, Miles Burrows (Physiological Sciences, 1956)

Miles Burrows is a poet always in love, and confused – as lovers tend to be – by the inconstant nature of ‘the other’. In this, his second book of poems, published half a century after the first (A Vulture’s Egg, 1966), he is also aware, merrily for the most part, of mortality.

Eros and Thanatos tap at his funny bone. Does God exist? he asks. Will the nightingale, the one right nightingale, sing?

The landscapes of these poems are drawn from the Far East, New Guinea and the Home Counties, where Burrows has served as a doctor, psychiatrist and a teacher. Thematically the poems build on Burrows’ eccentric childhood in a vanished but vividly reimagined, even re-invented England, rich in voices, disappointments and epiphanies and always maintaining a dialogue with the present.

Waiting for the Nightingale is published by Carcanet

Read a review by Carol Rumens in The Guardian 'Poem of the week'

The Great Unknown by Marcus du Sautoy (Mathematics, 1983)

Ever since the dawn of civilisation we have been driven by a desire to know - to understand the physical world and the laws of nature. But are there limits to human knowledge? Are some things beyond the predictive powers of science, or are those challenges simply the next big discovery waiting to happen?

Marcus du Sautoy takes us into the minds of science's greatest innovators and reminds us that major breakthroughs were often ridiculed at the time of their discovery. Then he carries us on a whirlwind tour of seven "Edges" of knowledge - inviting us to consider the problems in quantum physics, cosmology, probability and neuroscience that continue to bedevil scientists who are leading their fields. He grounds his personal exploration of some of science's thorniest questions in simple concepts like the roll of dice, the notes of a cello, or how a clock measures time.

The Great Unknown, published by Viking challenges us to think in new ways about every aspect of the known world as it invites us to consider big questions - about who we are and the nature of God - that no one has yet managed to answer definitively.

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