Strangers and Brothers: The Masters

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Strangers and Brothers: The Masters

Post by Guest on Sun May 01, 2011 12:09 am

C.P. Snow's 'Strangers and Brothers' is a multi volume series of books tracing the life and career of one Lewis Elliot. Elliot is a fellow in a Cambridge college with his speciality being Law. Then during the Second World War he is appointed a scientific administrator reporting directly to a cabinet minister.
'The Masters' is considered one of the best works of the series and this review focusses on this book. The events take place in an unnamed Cambridge College which has its own set of rules. There are 14 'Fellows' (permanent faculty, presumably), one of who is the 'Master' which is a kind of a 'first among equals' post which entitles the holder to certain privileges like living in a large bungalow and the power to fill official posts with people one chooses.

The Master, Royce, is diagnosed with terminal cancer and hence the 13 remaining Fellows have to elect one of their own as the new Master. In the election to take place two cliques come into being. The candidate of one clique is Jago, and the other candidate is Crawford. Jago is a Professor of English and Crawford of Physics. Crawford is academically more respected, and is a member of the Royal Society. But Jago is believed to have better people skills and is simply more likable, more warm. The two cliques initially formed are as follows:

Those supporting Jago:
Luke (The youngest Fellow, very promising physicist)
Pillbrow (elderly Fellow)
Chrystal (Dean)
Brown (Senior Tutor)
Elliot (young Fellow, close friend of Calvert and Getliffe)
Calvert (young Fellow, eminent physicist)
Nightingale (physicist, older than Elliot/Getliffe)

Those supporting Crawford:
M.E.L. Gay (The oldest Fellow, now retired, but with voting rights)
Despard-Smith (elderly Fellow)
Winslow (who is the Bursar or Treasurer)
Getliffe (young Fellow, very eminent physicist)


A majority of 7-4 in favor of Jago. But the old Master, Royce, lingers on for several months and the opinions of people supporting their candidates changes. The reasons for the change make for some interesting reading. Some of the people who flip--voting for one candidate after initially committing to vote for the other candidate-- do so of their own volition while others do so because supporters of one clique manage to convince them that their candidate is the better choice. The character sketches of these 'Fellows' are also fascinating. Eventually there is a photo finish with one of the candidates winning by one vote. The twist is that one of the earliest supporters of Jago--who had gone out of his way to canvass support for him-- changes his mind just the day before the vote and votes for Crawford; likewise one early supporter of Crawford changes his mind at the last moment and votes in favor of Jago.

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