Bellevue Literary. Apr. 2022. 320p. ISBN 9781942658993. pap. $23.99. F
DEBUT A Rhodes Scholar with advanced degrees from Yale and the University of East Anglia, Phillips purveys an authoritative insider’s perspective on academia and its social impact with the story of an at-loose-ends adjunct professor who attended Oxford on a Rhodes-like Weatherfield fellowship. Socially awkward and lacking a fancy pedigree, Laura felt out of place among her Weatherfield cohorts, who have gone on to success a decade later as she flounders, with both her job and her marriage out the window. A Weatherfield friend—but is she really a friend?—offers Laura work writing a history of the Weatherfield Foundation for its centennial, and Laura discovers ugly truths about the foundation’s roots in the exploitative sugar industry even as she reconnects with other breezily assured Weatherfield fellows. Lacquered with details of Laura’s struggles and her Weatherfield experiences, then and now, the narrative can initially feel slow. But Phillips is a smooth, steady storyteller, and the backstory connects directly to her portrait of academia as both reflecting and driving social inequities.
VERDICT A smart, thoughtful read, occasionally needing patience; the socially engaged and younger readers facing the issues Phillips examines will especially enjoy.
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