Real life experiences of American teachers at home and abroad, a romantic triangle, a Cambridge University secret society, educational experiences in post- colonial 1960s Rhodesia and post-Spanish Civil War Barcelona and several ‘grey’ books which are anything but, are all among the books recently added to the Library’s Education in Literature Collection.
In Touching lives: a teacher’s memoir Shirley A. Kitner-Mainello describes her 40 year career as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, private tutor and school administrator, offering an insight into the many changes in American education since the 1960s.
The author of The Kurdish bike: a novel Alesa Lightbourne, uses her own experiences as inspiration for her story about Teresa Turner. In 2010 the young American is dissatisfied with her teaching job in a school in northern Iraq, so she decides to buy a bicycle and explore the surrounding villages and countryside. Her friendship with a local widow helps her to find out about the lives of Kurdish women under Saddam Hussein’s regime.
The surprisingly complicated lives of university students are featured in two novels. In the first Lauren, Paul and Sean are affluent students at a small, liberal-arts college on America’s East Coast. Their curious love triangle is at the heart of The rules of attraction by Bret Easton Ellis. In the second Hans Stichler’s aunt will ensure that his application to Cambridge University, where she teachers, will be successful. In return Hans must help her to infiltrate the elite university secret society, the Pitt Club. His investigations become increasingly dangerous. The Club by Takis Wurger was translated from the German by Charlotte Collins.
Although Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangaremba is a new edition of an old favourite it is worth remembering the importance of this novel. When it was published in 1988 it was the first book published in English by a black woman from Zimbabwe. In this semi-autobiographical novel, set in 1960s Rhodesia, Tambu is from a poor, rural, Shona family who eagerly replaces her brother at a missionary school after his death. Gender and colonialism are major themes of the novel. How the hope and potential of a young girl and a fledgling nation can, over time, become a bitter struggle for survival is the theme of This mournable body which portrays Tambu’s later life.
Nada is the first novel, published in 1945, by Carmen Laforet. It is set in post- Spanish Civil War Barcelona. Andrea is an orphan raised in a convent in provincial Spain who is awarded a Government scholarship to attend university in Barcelona. At first she lives with her extended family in a decaying apartment but their increasingly violent behaviour forces her to move to Madrid to live with her friend Ena. Although the novel won the inaugural Premio Nadal Literary Prize in Spain it was controversial because in order to be published it had to pass the censorship of the Francoist State. At the time there was harsh state suppression of the Catalan language and culture in Barcelona. In 2007 Nada was translated into English.
There are now several books in the Literature Collection sporting grey covers which are all published by Persephone Press. Twenty years ago the founder, Nicola Beauman, set out to publish forgotten books by women writers from the early 20th century. All the books have to be a well written, ‘good reads’. Nicola Beauman has also stated that, because she is’ very, very interested in the novel as social history’, she likes books which tell how we lived.
The Persephone Press books include The Call by Edith Ayton Zangwill which is about Ursula who resists her mother’s attempts to involve her in Edwardian society. Her chemistry experiments are much more important to her until she becomes involved with the suffragettes. The author based the details of Ursula’s working life on that of her stepmother Hertha Ayton (1854- -1923) a physicist who became an expert on the electric arc. The book gives an insight into a woman’s domestic life in the first two decades of the 20th Century.
Surprisingly, another Persephone Press book, Saplings, is written by Noel Steatfeild, better known as the author of the children’s classics ‘Ballet Shoes’ and ‘White Boots’. Published in 1945, the book is about the four Wiltshire children and the effect the Second World War has on their lives. Noel Streatfeild really understands children and the distress caused to them by the loss of an understanding grown-up.
Despite not having a grey cover Mariana by Monica Dickens, the great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens, is also a Persephone Press imprint originally published in 1940. It is a funny, readable and perceptive story of the growth to maturity of Mary Shannon in the 1930s with superb contemporary detail.
Do not despair if none of these new books attracts your attention because they are plenty of other novels and autobiographies to choose from in the Education in Literature Collection which is shelved on level 4 in the Library. Books may be borrowed for eight weeks. If you would prefer to watch a film there is also a selection of DVDs which include foreign language films. DVDs may be borrowed for 7 days.