Philip Hensher

The concluding volume of Charles Moore’s life of Margaret Thatcher is – as its predecessors are – a triumph

19 October 2019 9:00 am

This outstanding biography comes to an end, not in an atmosphere of triumph and achievement, but in a welter of…

Ian McEwan’s anti-Brexit satire is a damp squib

5 October 2019 9:00 am

Kafka wrote a novella, The Metamorphosis, about a man who finds himself transformed into a beetle. Now Ian McEwan has…

No one held Susan Sontag in higher esteem than she did: Her Life reviewed

14 September 2019 9:00 am

Towards the end of this tale of imperial intellectual expansion, Susan Sontag’s publicist goes to visit his shrink and, dealing…

Not far fom the Dozier School, a small cemetery with 31 metal crosses is thought to contain further unmarked graves of children murdered by the staff

America’s brutal borstals: The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead, reviewed

27 July 2019 9:00 am

Novelists will always be interested in enclosed communities — or the ‘total institution’, as sociologists say. When you separate a…

Polari, the secret gay argot, is making a surprising comeback

22 June 2019 9:00 am

Imagine you’re a gay man living in the year 1950. Not unnaturally, you would like to meet another gay man.…

Toy theatres on the stage: the set designs of Maurice Sendak

1 June 2019 9:00 am

I must have seen hundreds of opera productions in my time. Out of these, hardly any made a lasting impression…

Not all British memsahibs were racist snobs

4 May 2019 9:00 am

Despite efforts to prevent them, British women formed a part of the Indian empire almost from the start. Although the…

Michael Tippett at home at Parkside, Corsham, Wilts with the score of his second piano sonata

Time for a Tippett revival

13 April 2019 9:00 am

Running the entire course of the 20th century, Michael Tippett’s life (1905–1998) was devoted to innovation. He was an English…

A clear vision of Walter Gropius the man is hard to come by

2 March 2019 9:00 am

Walter Gropius (1883–1969) had the career that the 20th century inflicted on its architects. A master of the previous generation…

‘The Break-up of the Ice’ by Claude Monet

How Calouste Gulbenkian became the richest man in the world

5 January 2019 9:00 am

Whenever I find myself visiting some great historic house, I always like to break off from gawping at tapestries to…

Pamela Hansford Johnson (right) and Elizabeth Taylor at a Book Society party in Knightsbridge in 1954

Lonely hearts and guilty minds: the world of Pamela Hansford Johnson

13 October 2018 9:00 am

The revival of interest in mid-20th century novelists is one of the most positive and valuable developments of our time.…

An unusual relationship: Katharine Cook Briggs with her daughter Isabel

The personality test that conned the world

8 September 2018 9:00 am

The other day in the Guardian’s Blind Date column, two participants, or victims, finished off an account of their frightful…

Photograph of an almshouse waif by Lewis W. Hine, entitled ‘Little Orphan Annie in a Pittsburg Institution’ (1909) [Bridgeman Art Library]

‘I am not a number’: the callous treatment of orphans

4 August 2018 9:00 am

Orphans are everywhere in literature — Jane Eyre, Heathcliff, Oliver Twist, Daniel Deronda, and onwards to the present day. They…

View of a drawing room, c. 1780 by Philip Reinagle

The short step from good manners to lofty imperialism

23 June 2018 9:00 am

In the gap between what we feel ourselves to be and what we imagine we might in different circumstances become,…

William Trevor, photographed in 1993

The wilder shores of excess in William Trevor’s fiction

19 May 2018 9:00 am

A very prolific and long-standing writer of short stories reveals himself. William Trevor, who died in 2016, owned up to…

A barricade of paving stones in the Latin Quarter of Paris, May 1968

1968 and the summer of our discontent

7 April 2018 9:00 am

’68 will do as shorthand. Most of ’68, as it were, didn’t happen in 1968. It was, at most, the…

Debussy appears to have had no real sympathy for, or interest in, other people

Debussy: the musical genius who erupted out of nowhere

24 February 2018 9:00 am

At the end of his study of Debussy, Stephen Walsh makes the startling, but probably accurate, claim that musical revolutionaries…

The neglected house on Downshire Hill had been Allan Chappelow’s home from childhood

The murder of a harmless Hampstead eccentric remains shrouded in mystery

27 January 2018 9:00 am

‘True crime’ is a genre that claims superiority over imagination, speculation and fantasy. It makes a virtue of boredom and…

Reinventing Baku: one of the three Flame Towers, comprising apartments, offices and a hotel, which dominate the old town. The project, costing an estimated US$350 million, was completed in 2012

Reading Norman Davies’s global history is like wading through porridge

2 December 2017 9:00 am

For many of us, life has become global. Areas which were previously tranquil backwaters are now hives of international activity.…

Romance and rejection

28 October 2017 9:00 am

‘Outsider’ ought to be an important word. To attach it to someone, particularly a writer, is to suggest that their…

Anthony Powell, by Henry Lamb (1934)

Of his time

30 September 2017 9:00 am

Great novelists come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing they all share is a status of half-belonging. If…

Pat and Richard Nixon in ENO’s 2006 production of John Adams’s Nixon in China

Whatever happened to Alice?

19 August 2017 9:00 am

In 1987, the art of opera changed decisively. John Adams’s opera Nixon in China was so unlike the usual run…

Self-portrait, with his wife Margaret

A dazzling vision

12 August 2017 9:00 am

There are a number of reports by his contemporaries of Thomas Gainsborough at work. They make you realise what a…

Striking camp in Canada, March 1820

Annie Proulx is lost in the woods

4 June 2016 9:00 am

In spurts and bursts and flashes, a sublime novelist at work reveals herself. In Annie Proulx’s new novel, there are…

‘Street in Auvers-sur-Oise’ by Vincent van Gogh

Why we love unfinished art

30 April 2016 9:00 am

The unfinished is, of course, something which tells us about the history of a work of art’s creation. A work…