The Masters

C. P. Snow

1954 Winner

James Tait Black Prize for Fiction

22 February 2018
466 pages


Winner of 1954 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction.

Widely regarded as C. P. Snow’s masterpiece, this lucid and compelling story of the contest for the Mastership of a Cambridge college is the fifth novel in C. P. Snow’s magnificent Strangers and Brothers sequence.

As the old Master slowly dies of cancer, his colleagues and peers jostle for power. Two candidates come to the foreground; Paul Jago – warm and sympathetic, but given to extravagant moods and hindered by an unsuitable wife – and Crawford, a shrewd, cautious and reliable man who lacks any of Jago’s human gifts. For Lewis Eliot, through whose eyes the narrative unfurls, the choice is clear, but politics and egos soon cloud the debate and the College is torn in two.

Depicting power in a confined setting with clarity and humanity, The Masters remains unsurpassed in its quiet, authoritative insight into the politics of academia.

A meticulous study of the public issues and private problems of post-war Britain, C. P. Snow’s Strangers and Brothers sequence is a towering achievement that stands alongside Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time as one of the great romans-fleuves of the twentieth century.

The Masters stands out boldly as an achievement, lucid, compelling, ironical rather than tragic, generous in its fullness
Perhaps the most engrossing academic novel in English
This book confirms the opinion that Mr Snow is one of the three or four best novelists now writing in English