I took some time out this week to read the first of Susan Hill's 100 novels you must read, The Masters by C.P.Snow not because I don't have enough to read but because,once recommended, I realised that C.P.Snow has lurked in my consciousness but I have never knowingly read any of his books, nor did I know much about him.
At this point I will interrupt and ask whether you are aware that if you have a library ticket it is likely that this will give you online access to the definitive Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.Originally the baby of Leslie Stephen, the father of Virginia Woolf and extensively rewritten and updated about 2 years ago into a 60 volume £umpteen thousand work.Definitely outside the limits of even my book buying budget but owned by many libraries and therefore available online too.
I digress; I ventured into the ODNB to read up on Charles Percy Snow (1905-1980)and his wife, the novelist Pamela Hansford Johnson (1912-1981). Published in 1951, The Masters is considered "the best academic novel in English". I was also unaware that it is Snow we have to thank for the familiar idiom "the corridors of power".
Snow delineates perfectly the privileged,enclosed world of the Cambridge college in 1937 as the fellows gather to elect a new master.The machinations begin as the last master lays dying and never was loyalty, treachery,and ambition so clearly defined with so little distraction from the life that must have been going on outside the college walls.Snow hints at wider events but only in passing which makes the book even more powerful in its demonstration of how insular it is possible to remain in such a rarified atmosphere.He uses emotion sparingly but devastatingly.There are some unbearably understated episodes between one of the candidates and his wife and again when the Master must be told that he is dying.
No over -cooking this egg and telling you how to react, enough left unsaid to give you much more to invest as a reader.I shall search out more Snow.