Author: Daisy Dunn
About the Book:
After the horrors of the First World War, Oxford looked like an Arcadia - a dreamworld - from which pain could be shut out. Soldiers arrived with pictures of the university fully formed in their heads, and women finally won the right to earn degrees. Freedom meant reading beneath the spires and punting down the river with champagne picnics. But all was not quite as it seemed.
Boys fresh from school settled into lecture rooms alongside men who had returned from the trenches with the beginnings of shellshock. It was displacing to be surrounded by aristocrats who liked nothing better than to burn furniture from each other's rooms on the college quads for kicks. The women of Oxford still faced a battle to emerge from their shadows. And among the dons a major conflict was beginning to brew.
Set in the world that Evelyn Waugh immortalised in Brideshead Revisited, this is a true and often funny story of the thriving of knowledge and spirit of fun and foreboding that characterised Oxford between the two world wars. One of the protagonists, in fact, was a friend of Waugh and inspired a character in his novel. Another married into the family who inhabited Castle Howard and befriended everyone from George Bernard Shaw to Virginia Woolf. The third was an Irish occultist and correspondent with the poets W. H. Auden, Louis MacNeice and W. B. Yeats.
This singular tale of Oxford colleagues and rivals encapsulates the false sense of security that developed across the country in the interwar years. With the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich came the subversion of history for propaganda. In academic Oxford, the fight was on not only to preserve the past from the hands of the Nazis, but also to triumph, one don over another, as they became embroiled in a war of their own.
About the Author:
Dr Daisy Dunn is a classicist, art historian and cultural critic. She read Classics at Oxford before completing an MA in Art History of the Italian Renaissance at the Courtauld and PhD in Classics and Renaissance painting at UCL, where she won the AHRC Doctoral Award, an Italian Cultural Association scholarship, and the Gay Clifford Award for Outstanding Female Scholars.
She writes for the Spectator, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Times and Literary Review, among others, and is editor of the Greek culture journal ARGO: A Hellenic Review. She was longlisted for the international £20,000 Notting Hill Editions Essay Prize in 2015, and named as one of the leading female historians in the Guardian the following year. She has contributed to BBC World Service, and has presented two short films on Latin and ancient wisdom for BBC Ideas.