Alumni Services

November 2014

There is something for everyone, from the tale of a mischievous family pet to an account of nursing during the First World War and a travel memoir with an introduction by Michael Palin.


Author James Meek
Degree Arts MA (1984)
Book Private Island: Why Britain now belongs to someone else

In a little over a generation the bones and sinews of the British economy - rail, energy, water, postal services, municipal housing - have been sold to remote, unaccountable private owners, often from overseas. In a series of brilliant portraits the award-winning novelist and journalist James Meek shows how Britain’s common wealth became private, and the impact it has had on us all: from the growing shortage of housing to spiralling energy bills.

Meek explores the human stories behind the incremental privatization of the nation over the last three decades. He shows how, as our national assets are sold, ordinary citizens are handed over to private tax-gatherers, and the greatest burden of taxes shifts to the poorest. In the end, it is not only public enterprises that have become private property, but we ourselves.

Urgent, powerfully written and deeply moving, this is a passionate anatomy of the state of the nation: of what we have lost and what losing it cost us - the rent we must pay to exist on this private island.

Private Island: Why Britain now belongs to someone else


Author Ian Wilkinson
Degree MPhil (1980)
Book Crossing the Water

Two young boys living in an institution are caught in crossfire at the outset of the Irish troubles, setting their lives onto very different paths.

Each will escape the institution, face the pain of emigration and become a fugitive from justice while trying to build a new life. Will they find the courage to follow their dreams despite one setback after another? Eventually, both their lives entwine around a troubled English family - how does an ordinary working man raise six daughters while taking care of his increasingly crazy wife?

They meet again in 1946 in the midst of crisis and tragedy. One of the daughters must now choose between her close-knit family and the man she truly loves

Crossing the Water


Author William Bulmer
Degree Arabic and Politics (2000)
Book A Constitution for the Common Good: Strengthening Scottish Democracy After 2014

Nearly every democracy in the world is built upon a written constitution, and constitutions have been at the core of citizens’ demands for better governance in places as disparate as Kenya, Tunisia and Ukraine. Following the referendum, change looks certain to remain central to the political agenda in Scotland for some time to come.

This book not only makes a vital contribution to Scotland’s current and on-going constitutional debate, whatever the outcome in September 2014, but also engages with fundamental questions of constitutionalism and democracy that are of enduring relevance to both citizens and scholars around the world.

A Constitution for the Common Good: Strengthening Scottish Democracy After 2014


Author Catherine Rayner
Degree Illustration BA (2004)
Book Smelly Louie

Louie the dog has just had a bath - and he is NOT happy about it. He smells all wrong. Determined to get his Special Smell back, he goes on a hunt for it and meets lots of smelly things along the way - a fox, some interesting dustbins and a marvellously muddy puddle to roll in. Will he succeed in getting his smell back? And, more importantly, will he be able to keep it this time . . . ?

Catherine Rayner is the Greenaway Medal-winning creator of SOLOMON CROCODILE and ERNEST. SMELLY LOUIE is full of her trademark humour and richly textured artwork. This funny canine tale will be a sure-fire hit with children and adults alike.

Smelly Louie


Author Neil Morris
Degree German and French MA (1961)
Book From the Cam to the Zambezi: Colonial Service and the Path to the New Zambia. Edited by Tony Schur

In 1961 a group of men arrived in Cambridge to join the Overseas Services Course before going on to work in the Provincial Administration of the Northern Rhodesia Government. This book features contributions by fifteen of the original course members and three wives.

They cover the last years of colonial rule in Northern Rhodesia and the early years of the new nation of Zambia after it gained its independence in 1964. They shed light on the life of British overseas civil servants and their families during those years; and contain first-hand accounts of important historic events.

Set against the backdrop of the Cold War and decolonisation, these varied stories offer an insight into a world on the brink of change, offering perspectives on the final years of Northern Rhodesia and the path to independence in Zambia, seen through the eyes of a young group of colonial officials and their wives.

From the Cam to the Zambezi: Colonial Service and the Path to the New Zambia


Author Priya Parmar
Degree English Literature MSc (1997)
Book Vanessa and her Sister

London, 1905. The city is alight with change and the Stephen siblings are at the forefront. Vanessa, Virginia, Thoby and Adrian are leaving behind their childhood home and taking a house in the leafy heart of avant-garde Bloomsbury. There they bring together a glittering circle of brilliant, artistic friends who will come to be known as the legendary Bloomsbury Group. And at the centre of the charmed circle are the devoted, gifted sisters: Vanessa, the painter and Virginia, the writer.

But the landscape shifts when Vanessa unexpectedly falls in love and her sister feels dangerously abandoned. Eerily possessive, charismatic, manipulative and brilliant, Virginia has always lived in the shelter of Vanessa's constant attention and encouragement. Without it, she careens toward self-destruction and madness. As tragedy and betrayal threaten to destroy the family, Vanessa must choose whether to protect Virginia's happiness or her own.

Vanessa and her Sister


Author Yvonne McEwen
Degree Nursing Studies MSc (2002)
Book In the Company of Nurses

The untold story of the British Army Nursing Service during The Great War. Constructed from unpublished official and unofficial documents, letters and diaries of the time, this important volume tells the much-neglected story of the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS) during the First World War.

Yvonne McEwen’s ground-breaking original research moves away from the long-held, uncritical, and overly-romanticised views of First World War nursing and addresses the professional, personal and political consequences that arose for nurses in the pivotal years from 1914 to 1918. This centenary volume is a vital contribution to the historiography of British military care-giving throughout this period and to the history of the Great War more generally.

In the Company of Nurses


Author Schuylar Jones
Degree Social Anthropology MA (1965)
Book A Stranger Abroad: A memoir

In Michael Palin’s forward, he says that, I first met Schuyler when he was running one of my favourite collections of International cultural artifacts, the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. His energy and enthusiasm for the delights crammed into this unique place could not help but rub off on me and I remain a staunch supporter of the Pitt Rivers to this day. I began making BBC series about far-off places when I was forty-five, and people like Schuyler roused admiration and envy in equal parts because they had been at it all their lives.

I knew from our talks together that Schuyler was the sort of traveller I always wanted to be but never would have the time. Now, looking at this account of his life I realize that what I knew of Schuyler was just the tip of the ice-berg, though it does increase my envy to almost intolerable levels. A Stranger Abroad is a real treat.

A Stranger Abroad: A memoir


Author Suad Amiry
Degree Architecture PhD (1988)
Book Golda Slept Here

Politics enters the lives of every family in Palestine. In this literary-historical tour de force, Suad Amiry traces the lives of individual members of Palestinian families and, through them, the histories of both Palestine and the émigré Palestinian community in other countries of the Middle East.

Amiry mixes nostalgia with anger while mocking Israeli doublespeak that seeks to wipe out any trace of a Palestinian past in West Jerusalem. She juxtaposes serial bombardments and personal tragedies; evokes the sights and smells of Palestinian architecture and food; and weaves for us the tapestry that is the Palestinian reality, caught between official histories and private memories.

Through poetry and prose, monologue and dialogue, we glimpse the lost Palestinian landscape, obscured by the silent battle between remembering and forgetting.

Golda Slept Here


Author Anshuman Mondal
Degree English Literature MA (1995)
Book Islam and Controversy: The Politics or Free Speech After Rushdie

Was Salman Rushdie right to have written The Satanic Verses? Were the protestors right to have protested? What about the Danish cartoons? Is giving offence simply about the right to freedom of expression, and what is really happening when people take offence?

Using case studies of a number of Muslim-related freedom of speech controversies surrounding (in)famous, controversial texts such as The Satanic Verses, The Jewel of Medina, the Danish cartoons of Muhammed and the film Submission by Theo van Gogh, this book examines the moral questions raised by such controversies, questions that are often set aside at the time, such as whether the authors and artists involved were right to have done what they did and whether those who protested against them were right to have responded in such a way. In so doing, it argues that the giving and taking of offence are political performances that struggle to define and re-define freedom, and suggests that any attempt to establish a language of inter-cultural communication appropriate to multicultural societies is an ethical as opposed to merely political or legal task, involving dialogue and negotiation over fundamental values and principles.

Overall, this important book constitutes a sustained critique of liberal arguments for freedom of speech, in particular of the liberal discourse that took shape in response to the Rushdie controversy and has, in the twenty-five years since, become almost an orthodoxy for many intellectuals, artists, journalists and politicians living and working in Britain (and elsewhere in the West) today.

Islam and Controversy: The Politics or Free Speech After Rushdie

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