Friday, January 27, 2012

Strangers and Brothers

The Masters (Strangers and Brothers, #5)
The Masters 

"There are some hidden streaks in any politics, which only flash to the surface in an intense election such as this.  Suddenly they leap out:  one finds to one's astonishment that there are moments when one loves one's rival--despises one's supporters--hates one's candidate.  Usually these streaks do not make any difference in the action, but in a crisis it is prudent to watch them." (p 155)

The setting of The Masters is Cambridge in 1937. It is the fourth novel in the eleven novel sequence the comprises C. P. Snow's masterpiece, Strangers and Brothers. Narrated by Lewis Eliot, the story tells of the election of a new Master to replace the old Master who, as the novel opens, lays dying. The choice facing Eliot and the other dons is whether to elect Paul Jago, a scholar of literature, or Crawford, a biologist. The novel slowly, but effectively, develops suspense from the political machinations of the various academic characters while the contrast between the two candidates' personalities clearly becomes an important factor. In the confined sphere of the academy Snow delineates a paradigm of the political process in action.
All this is set against the backdrop of international political changes roiling the continent. There are hints of this when one of the dons visits Berlin and another goes to the Balkans. In clear lucid prose the tale spins out, with a thin veneer of academic respectability continually covering the power struggles in the background. Through it all my interest was maintained by the suspense that builds till the end. While this is only one of several novels in the series that is set in Cambridge it may be read independently of the others. However, I found Snow's story-telling ability such that I will likely return to discover what happens in other novels in the series.

The Masters (Strangers and Brothers, Vol. 2) by C. P. Snow.  Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. 1972


Thomas at My Porch said...

I loved this book. I am just glad I didn't know it was part of an 11-volume series. If I had known that I may have been scared away or felt like I needed to start at the beginning. But now that I have read it, it is nice to know that I have 10 more to discover.

James said...

Thanks for your comment. I enjoyed the book also and would be interested in your comments on others in the series if you read them. The next volume following The Masters sounds like it would be interesting as it is set at Cambridge during and just after the war years.