14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Intelligent and Beautifully Written,
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This review is from: The Professor of Poetry (Kindle Edition)
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. It's also very much a book about books, so if you enjoy literature and literary criticism, then you will find much that is satisfying to read in this unusual and absorbing story. I must admit that I have not read Grace McCleen's debut novel: The Land of Decoration which, I understand, is very different to this second book, but having enjoyed 'The Professor of Poetry' has made me very interested in obtaining a copy and I shall certainly be looking out for the author's next literary offering.