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The Professor of Poetry

The Professor of Poetry [Kindle Edition]

Grace McCleen
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Product Description


An astonishing and luminous novel . . . every line is newly felt and freshly experienced. The reader is kept guessing: is this an emotional farce and an intellectual tragedy, or is it the opposite? The novel's ironies are multiple and stinging . . . Grace McCleen is an author who, with only her second novel, is setting her own clever agenda. She is a finished artist, but performs on the page with all the aerial grace of someone who senses no limits to what she can do. (Hilary Mantel)

Moving and beautiful . . . this is a remarkable piece of work, empathetic, intelligent and genuinely poetic (Spectator)

Enchanting . . . An utterly fascinating piece for poetry-lovers, and also an extremely poignant read. (Book of the Month, Image)

A grand tragedy with an intimate focus . . . for those who readers sympathetic to Anne's regrets in Jane Austen's Persuasion, or who find richness in the academic wrangling of AS Byatt's literary sleuths and lovers in Possession, there is much here to adore. McCleen's manipulation of suspense is extraordinary - hope for Elizabeth's enlightenment lurks in the shadows of her insecurities and emotional blind spots, and exploration of these dark places renders the novel sinewy with tension . . . her Prufrock-like world is painted with bewitching vitality . . . the narrative sweeps with a sumptuous musicality. (Financial Times)

Her new novel catapults her into the literary big league . . . McCleen invests this ostensibly dry subject matter with enormous poignancy and eroticism (Mail on Sunday)

An intricate tapestry in which past and present mingle to mesmerising effect . . . what eloquence! There are sentences here of such agile cleverness, charged with wit and beauty and enchantment. (Observer)

It's McCleen's unflinching dedication to detail that will enchant readers. This novel has obviously been pored over, cherished and perfected . . . [her] graceful weaving through the present and past of her main character produces an intriguing - and original - story. (Stylist)

McCleen doesn't make Elizabeth easy to like and this is part of the professor's charm. She doesn't "do" summer, most definitely does not do love poetry, and would like to teach Virginia Woolf a thing or two about semicolons . . . an intricate tapestry in which past and present mingle to mesmerising effect . . . what eloquence! There are sentences here of such agile cleverness, charged with wit and beauty and enchantment. (Guardian)

Book Description

'Astonishing and luminous' - Hilary Mantel. The dazzling new novel from the prize-winning author of The Land of Decoration.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 444 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (4 July 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #54,168 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
Grace McCleen's "The Professor of Poetry" is Elizabeth Stone, a 52 year old aged professor at a London University. When the book opens she has just discovered that a cancer scare is now in remission, but forced by her illness to take a sabbatical, she sets about researching her latest book based on some papers of TS Eliot. This takes her back to Oxford, to her alma mater and raises the prospect of seeing her former professor there, a man convinced of the young Miss Stone's potential at an early age, but whose last meeting was somewhat awkward. McCleen looks at the issues raised by generations of poets, namely time, death and love. For Professor Stone, the first has passed, the second come uncomfortably close and the third remains unknown to her. What's more, her academic focus is on the music of love poetry which is somewhat ironic in that she avoids human relationships perhaps due to the death of her mother at an early age and an unhappy foster experience, while also having a peculiar aversion to music. Perhaps though this is what allows her a detached ability to write academic studies.

Like many writers before her, following on from a book of such extraordinary critical acclaim as "The Land of Decoration" is always a challenge. There are some familiar elements though. Again, McCleen writes of a detached outsider and there is a similar haunting sadness to her writing which make McCleen such an interesting writer. However, in other ways until the end of the book where she does pull a rabbit out of the hat, it suffers somewhat in comparison.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and Beautifully Written 4 July 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Our heroine, Elizabeth Stone, is 52 years old; she is single, independent, and a respected academic working as an English professor at UCL. She is dedicated to her work and, with her sensible wardrobe of cardigans, pleated skirts and neat blouses, Elizabeth's life follows the path she has planned for. However, when she begins to feel unwell, collapses during a lecture and falls asleep during a meeting, only to wake up and find herself dribbling onto her cardigan, Elizabeth realises that maybe she needs help and reluctantly visits her doctor to have her health checked. When a brain tumour is diagnosed and subsequently successfully treated, Elizabeth, now in remission, is advised to take a sabbatical - and, in doing so, she takes on a whole new lease of life.

Elizabeth decides to return to Oxford: "the city of books", a city she hasn't revisited for more than thirty years, to carry out research on some of the papers of the poet T.S. Eliot, which she feels may help to make her next book her 'magnum opus'. There, Elizabeth becomes reacquainted with Professor Edward Hunt: "Black boots, scuffed, laces knotted three times. Jumper: too large, small hole near cuff. Hair: grey but still rising in ridiculous tufts" - who was Elizabeth's tutor when she was studying in Oxford, and a man to whom she was in thrall all those years ago ...

Intelligent, beautifully written and, at times, rather moving and intense, this story, with a strong evocation of place, is about being alone and how some people bury themselves in their work in order to fill their empty spaces; it's about how people avoid confronting issues that they would rather not face, and it's about being trapped in the past and regretting that life has not been lived to the full.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but ... 5 Feb 2014
Although I enjoyed this book, a couple of flaws niggled me. I have a problem with someone who's a professor of poetry, supposedly with a feel and understanding for language and diction, continually describing vinyl records as `black spheres'. A sphere is a ball shape. A record is a disc shape. I've never heard records likened to spheres before. At first, I thought she must be talking about some outlandish, sci-fi music delivery system - then I realised.

Another thing that doesn't read right is her misuse of grammar. On a number of occasions, she writes `as if I was' instead of `as if I were' (future conditional).

Anyway, although it's hard to believe that anyone could be allergic to music or be music-phobic, McCleen's writing as a whole is convincing.

I would recommend her first novel, The Land of Decoration though. It's one of those books you wish would never end.
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This took a very long time to read. Not because the plot was complicated, no - but because so many sentences are of such great beauty that they deserved reading again, and savouring. McCleen is right up there with the literary big guns in my opinion. In this book she has developed a very strange character:a solitary little girl named Elizabeth Stone (initially brought up by her mother in a house by the sea, then who goes to live with aloof foster parents)who is clever enough to get a place at a prestigious university where she is a star student for her hipster mentor, Professor Edward Hunt. Their intellectual admiration is mutual, and it leads to a chaste, but passionate friendship.

Despite her growing love for her Professor (although she does not recognise it as that) Elizabeth has made an internal vow to make her work her life, in which there is no place for men. After leaving the 'city of books' (never named but thought to be Oxford) she pursues her own academic career, becoming a Professor of Poetry.

The novel examines Elizabeth's internal conflicts and influences that have formed her personality, skipping back and forth through time; her childhood, her university days, her interactions with Edward. It's difficult to like her - she is aloof, selfish, totally driven to succeed intellectually and makes minimal effort to fit in with the social scene. Yet McCleen keeps us completely interested in both Elizabeth's thought processes and her behaviours with such mesmerising prose that it has the ability to evoke all the reader's senses at once.

The novel begins with the Professor of Poetry being given the news that the brain cancer she developed at 52 is in remission.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A sad tale of unresolved love.
I was attracted to the novel by the claimed poetic content, which was interestingly delivered, but the story, spanning several decades was difficult to get into and the moment of... Read more
Published 3 months ago by David Muil
4.0 out of 5 stars 'I Wasted Time, and Now Time Doth Waste Me'
Grace McCleen's second novel (in fact I think her first in terms of writing, second in terms of publication) is a dreamy, gently melancholy meditation on middle-aged regrets, with... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Kate Hopkins
4.0 out of 5 stars Leaves you feeling sad...
...and makes you think of words not said and paths not taken. Because of this, 'The Professor of Poetry' surely has universal appeal. Read more
Published 5 months ago by serpentine
3.0 out of 5 stars Moving in the right direction
Relieved to see Grace McCleen has taken a decisive step away from the indignity of Richard & Judy though what fans of Jasmine Nights and After the Fall will make of Professor Stone... Read more
Published 10 months ago by ReadInBed
3.0 out of 5 stars Wordy, not much action
I read another of Grace McClean books and found it very unusual, so decided to try another. Unfortunately this book is extremely verbose!! - why use one word when 500 will do???!!! Read more
Published 11 months ago by E. Armstrong
3.0 out of 5 stars Partly boring
It really took far too long a long a time to get started and also I found it very didactic.
Published 11 months ago by Mrs Judith M Davies
4.0 out of 5 stars a strange and dream-like read
i liked this as I'm a poet myself, But it might be too much for people who aren't in too.
terested in literature. The writing style is a bit eccentric
Published 11 months ago by cymraes
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written.
The storyline is a little bit light but it is brilliantly written. I don't know enough about poetry to say if the academic part of the storyline is sound.
Published 11 months ago by hoonridge
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