Page 126. " One did hear things, even then, about Catholic priests "

 Over the last two decades the Catholic Church has been subject to a number of allegations concerning the safety of children within its care. In many different countries around the world priests have been found guilty of hundreds of cases of child abuse, and the Church stands accused of failing to prevent these crimes and, more importantly, covering them up when they were discovered, even to the extent of relocating guilty priests to places where they were then left free to continue abusing children.

For a detailed list of cases from around the world, see the BBC News page on the scandal.

Page 126. " Is it Mark's mother who wants to know? "

 This detail of the plot echoes that of Brideshead Revisited, the 1945 novel by Evelyn Waugh. Brideshead Revisited also deals with a young man introduced into a glamorous set of students. Most glamorous of all is Sebastian Flyte, a rich gay Catholic who becomes increasingly dependent on alcohol as the book progresses. His overbearing mother sends a Fellow from All Souls' College named Samgrass to watch over him on her behalf.

Naomi Alderman has written on her blog about the long shadow Brideshead Revisited casts over authors who wish to write about Oxford and student life in general:  "I stayed away from watching or reading it while I was writing my novel. Working on a novel about Oxford, I thought it was important to steer clear. But I know that some elements of the book are a response to Brideshead."  

Brideshead Revisited on Book Drum


Page 129. " we all walk over the Port Meadow to have lunch at the Trout "
The Trout Inn
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe Trout Inn - Credit: Ian Paterson

 Port Meadow is a 440 acre area of common ground that runs along the banks of the Isis (Thames) in Oxford. Traditional grazing rights are still exercised on the land by local farmers. The Trout in Wolvercote is one of two fishily-named pubs in the area, the other being the Perch. It is a popular place for students to visit for mulled wine and roasted chestnuts. Part of the Trout Inn is thought to be over 700 years old.


Google Map
Page 134. " all the members of the Bullingdon Club "

The Bullingdon Club Supports UTG


The notorious Bullingdon Club is an all-male dining club for young members of the upper class at Oxford, who meet up regularly to eat and drink prodigiously before indulging in activities that would be condemned as anti-social behaviour if carried out by youths of any other social class. Club members are necessarily extremely wealthy, as they must be able to pay for the club's uniforms, expensive dinners, and for the damage to property that inevitably follows these dinners.

Club dinners typically start with a private room booked anonymously in a restaurant in the countryside near Oxford. After the diners become sufficiently drunk a great deal of damage is done to the restaurant. On one occasion the club hired a band to accompany them and went on to smash all the instruments, including a Stradivarius violin. Afterwards the members, labouring under the impression that money absolves them of criminal responsibility, try to pay for damage they cause.

Previous members of the Bullingdon Club include the current Prime Minister David Cameron (pictured), the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne, and the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson (pictured).


Page 135. " The notorious 'fifth week blues' had struck "
Creative Commons AttributionStudy - Credit: JuditK

 Terms at Oxford University are divided into eight numbered weeks. The fifth week often marks the onset of a period of depression known as 'fifth week blues', as students struggle to keep up with their work whilst the end of term still seems a long way away.

Page 144. " carrying a copy of Just Seventeen "

Just Seventeen was a popular weekly magazine for teenage girls in Britain. It ran from 1983 to 2007 before being killed off by competition from rival magazines.

An early cover

Page 148. " a mariachi band "
Mariachi Band
Creative Commons AttributionMariachi Band - Credit: Gerardo Gonzalez

 Mariachi bands are small string bands whose music originated in Jalisco, Mexico. The bands typically contain a guitar, violins, a five-stringed Mexican guitar called a vihuela, a large bass guitar called a guitarrón, and a trumpet; all the musicians sing. Mariachi bands dress in charro costumes, the outfits of traditional Mexican horsemen.

Listen to The Mariachi Band of Mexico on Spotify.

Strangely enough, beluga whales appear to be great fans of mariachi music, as the video below shows.