- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Sceptre (4 July 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1444769952
- ISBN-13: 978-1444769951
- Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 2.9 x 21.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 716,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Professor of Poetry Hardcover – 4 Jul 2013
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...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)
Enchanting...An utterly fascinating piece for poetry-lovers, and also an extremely poignant read. (Rachel Glover Book of the Month, Image)
Moving and beautiful...this is a remarkable piece of work, empathetic, intelligent and genuinely poetic. (Charlotte Moore Spectator)
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. (Beatrice Hodgkin 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. (Hephzibah Anderson 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)
Blissful and beautifully written. (Saga)
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)
A powerful, lyrically told and unusual love story by the prize-winning author of THE LAND OF DECORATION.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
"... the silky heads, the curved bodies that looked human, at the silver coils which spread like oil on the water and went on spreading, like hair, that looked just the way her mother's hair did when she swam in the sea..."
Any one of these would have worked beautifully on its own, but it's like putting cream, ice cream, maple syrup and honey on top of a trifle. Too much.
The next few paragraphs are all description as well, and the story lost any power it had for me. It felt like the book was a showcase for McCleen's knowledge of poetry and poets (which was interesting to a degree, as I love poetry) and of words (ditto). I was desperate for it to be over and stopped caring about what happened to anyone in it. What a shame!
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was the first of Grace McCleen's novels I'd read, but the obvious comparison to make is with Virginia Woolf. Read morePublished 2 months ago by C. O'Brien
As a poet myself I found this novel really irritating, like a nagging sore that I couldn't leave alone. Read morePublished 7 months ago by D Webster
Slowish start and useful to have a dictionary - or google - to hand for the odd word, but a thoroughly engaging, interesting read. Read morePublished 8 months ago by bookworm8
I have just read this for the second time. After reading The Land Of Decoration and loving it I bought this immediately but found it hard going on first read although still a... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Tina
The language and use of language reminds me of a poor translation into English, or a book written by someone whose second language English was learned some decades ago. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Ali
This is the life story, from childhood to maturity, of Elizabeth Stone whose passion, obsession and solace is books. Read morePublished 9 months ago by hfffoman
I find this book really hard to summarise and give a simple yes/no recommendation - this is a complex biographical prose / poetry with very little of a traditional narrative that... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Klingsor
Well, this is a change of direction after her debut novel – a turn from magic to very serious relationship drama. I have to say I find this better territory for her style. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Thomas Pots
It's all to easy to get put off this book. It starts by describing the onset of an illness in a Professor of Poetry which turns out to be just a device. Read morePublished 11 months ago by R. Lawson