As fate would have it, I am reading two books both of which take place on British university campuses. Just the tales to cuddle up with as the days are beginning to cool down.
The first is Parting Breath (1977) by Catherine Aird. This was next in line in her series that I am reading featuring Detective Chief Inspector C.D. Sloan and his ever clueless Constable Crosby. It is a very literary mystery and part of the plot (very minor) involves a stolen letter that supposedly revealed the mystery lover of Jane Austen. The main mystery has to do with the murder of one of the students - an ecology major. The background to the the murder investigations (yes, there is more than one death on this lively campus) is a sit-in being staged by students in protest of the expelling of a popular student. Maybe not expelled - I think it's called being sent down. Anyway, there is plenty of mayhem in the main quadrangle.
I find the late-night conversations between Sloan and his boss Superintendent Leeyes to be very funny. Leeyes has a penchant for taking adult education classes and uses his fractured knowledge to confuse and confound poor Sloan who is trying his best out in the world of crime.
The second book is quite different: Lucky Jim (1954) by Kingsley Amis. This classic campus book (recently reviewed quite nicely by Kat at mirabile dictu) follows the path through academe trudged by Jim Dixon and is filled with cranky dons and charmless women. Quite a comic treat.
The thing about Parting Breath is that Ms. Aird mentions Lucky Jim along with Zuleika Dobson (a university novel by Max
Beerbahm), Hamlet, Alice in Wonderland, P.G. Wodehouse, Oscar Wilde, and two Wordsworths, William and Dorothy.
I'll bet she had a fun time working all those literary references into the story.
The campus book I remember best is A Separate Peace (1959) by John Knowles that takes place at an American prep school. Another favorite, Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1934) by James Hilton, is set at a British boarding school.
I would love to spend a toasty fall semester at a university if only I could just attend class and not have to be bothered with homework. For now, though, I will have to be content reading about the academic life.
Any campus books you would care to recommend?