cover image To Heaven by Water

To Heaven by Water

Justin Cartwright, . . Bloomsbury, $15 (305pp) ISBN 978-1-59691-621-0

Cartwright offers a wistful meditation on the passing of time while wandering past Oxford’s stone buildings as an older man, reminded of his year there in the 1960s as a student, having escaped South Africa and apartheid for a liberal paradise. “[F]or someone from South Africa,” he admits, “this stone seemed to speak, even sing, of a kind of seriousness and disregard for time.” Through anecdotes, discussions with many leading figures and historical details of people like Isaiah Berlin and Adam Von Trott, Cartwright reaches to uncover Oxford’s mythical presence in Anglo culture. He also examines some of the great debates about the school, including the recent argument about funding and the classism that Oxford is often criticized for. As in his fiction, Cartwright handles weighty themes with an expert touch; here, the result is at turns ruminative and informative, but always inviting. (Aug.)