Oscar & Lucy by Alan Kennedy

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Oscar & Lucy by Alan Kennedy

Category: Biography
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Fascinating combination of biography and autobiography. Kennedy's own early career path was significantly affected by a man who remained a cipher to him decades later. His search for detail turned up a truly remarkable story of the rise of Nazism, codebreaking and the nascent discipline of experimental psychology.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 88 Date: November 2014
Publisher: Lasserrade Press
ISBN: 095646968X

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With the film about Alan Turing, The Imitation Game getting rave reviews and award nominations right, left and centre, the sterling work done by the Bletchley Park cryptographers during WWII is quite high in our minds. But Enigma wasn't the only code broken and Turing wasn't the only one doing secret but heroic work.

In Oscar & Lucy, Alan Kennedy uncovers one of those little known stories - a story that was just one story among many in one man's remarkable life. Oscar Oeser was a physics graduate but became a pioneering psychologist whose relationship with his discipline was highly fraught. He worked in Germany during the rise of Nazism, was a significant figure during WWII and took his secrets with him to his grave.

Kennedy knew Oeser as his boss in his first post-doctorate teaching post in Australia. He was an enigmatic figure and Kennedy had had no idea of his past until he came across the name Oscar Oeser during research for a novel he was writing about the war. The brief mention was tantalising enough for Kennedy to put his novel on hold and embark upon a journey of discoveries about Oeser. And the resulting book is a mix of autobiography and biography, with a side serving of the troubled history of the discipline of psychology.

It's a slim volume; just eighty-odd pages, but somehow it feels bigger than that. As you can see, it covers a lot of material and it's all endlessly fascinating. Oscar's story alone is worth telling but it's anchored in a partial memoir of Kennedy's own early career and set against a background of the development of psychology. It's beautifully written with great clarity; as accessible to the lay person as the student of pyschology or the lover of history. And, as serious as the themes are, there's an underlying wryness and sense of humour that makes Oscar & Lucy a pleasure to read. We Brits do self-deprecation remarkably well.

In closing, Kennedy says that despite all his efforts to pin Oscar down, he resisted all efforts to know him. And in many ways, this is true. Oscar was a man who not only kept secrets for most of his life but also a man who kept himself secret. How much the former impelled the latter, we can only guess. But Kennedy's slim little volume illuminated a truly fascinating and extraordinary figure, just as, I suspect he'd hoped to do. And I feel the better for having read the fruits of his search.

Recommended. At £1.49 for the Kindle edition, it's a fabulous little book.

Alan Turing is the more famous codebreaker of WWII. His mother's book about him is interesting but also an example of selective truths.

Buy Oscar & Lucy by Alan Kennedy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Oscar & Lucy by Alan Kennedy at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Oscar & Lucy by Alan Kennedy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Oscar & Lucy by Alan Kennedy at Amazon.com.


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