Books

When Graves was wounded at High Wood on the Somme he was listed as dead. The sense of being a revenant probably affected him for the rest of his life. [Mary Evans Picture Library}

Ménage à quatre with Robert Graves

18 August 2018 9:00 am

‘I have a very poor opinion of other people’s opinion of me — though I am fairly happy in my…

Mary Magdalene washing Christ’s feet by William Blake, c.1805

A feast for foot fetishists

18 August 2018 9:00 am

It is always interesting to see what art historians get up to when none of the rest of us is…

Did the notorious Zinoviev letter ever exist?

18 August 2018 9:00 am

This is a well-written, scrupulously researched and argued account of an enduring mystery that neatly illustrates the haphazard interactions of…

The plight of the returnee: A Terrible Country, by Keith Gessen, reviewed

18 August 2018 9:00 am

If the 20th century popularised the figure of the émigré, the 21st has introduced that of the returnee, who, aided…

Anita Leslie, aged 23 in 1937 © Tarka Leslie-King

Anita Leslie: sparkling socialite with the Croix de Guerre

18 August 2018 9:00 am

Anita Leslie knew how to tell a story. Arranging to sit for a portrait six months before she died, she…

How do we envisage Shakespeare’s wife?

18 August 2018 9:00 am

Despite his having one of the most famous names in the world, we know maddeningly little about William Shakespeare. His…

Unlucky in love: Caroline’s Bikini, by Kirsty Gunn, reviewed

18 August 2018 9:00 am

‘The most interesting novels are a bit strange,’ Kirsty Gunn once told readers of the London Review of Books. ‘They…

From the Iliad to the IRA: Country, by Michael Hughes, reviewed

18 August 2018 9:00 am

Recently there has been a spate of retellings of the Iliad, to name just Pat Barker’s The Silence of the…

‘A Connoisseur’ by Thomas Rowlandson

It’s time to rehabilitate the art connoisseur

18 August 2018 9:00 am

Many art historians have written their own story of the making of an aesthete: Ruskin, Berenson and Kenneth Clark to…

Portrait of Dante by Luca Signorelli

The perfect guide to a book everyone should read

11 August 2018 9:00 am

‘The Divine Comedy is a book that everyone ought to read,’ according to Jorge Luis Borges, and every Italian has…

The long limbs, light frame and deep chest of sighthounds, like the Borzoi or Russian wolfhound, give them the speed and endurance to outrun their quarry. Drawing by Katrina van Grouw

The selective breeding of pets: how far should we go?

11 August 2018 9:00 am

It was in his play Back to Methuselah that George Bernard Shaw honoured a lesser known aspect of Charles Darwin’s…

‘We are not cattle, we’re people’: everyday hell in Stalin’s labour camps

11 August 2018 9:00 am

‘No testimony from this time must ever be forgotten,’ the great Lithuanian poet Tomas Venclova says in his afterword to…

The unknown Auden: the poet’s dashing brother

11 August 2018 9:00 am

A book that opens in a Lahore refugee camp, shifts to Cat Bells Fell, rising above the shores of Derwentwater,…

Three generations and two royal families sit for a family portrait at Cowes in 1909. The portly Edward VII (centre) is flanked by the Tsar and Tsarina

2018: a year of dangerous liaisons with Russia

11 August 2018 9:00 am

First it was McMafia. After which it was the Skripals. Then the World Cup. Come the end of the year…

Brazil: a country fizzing with excitement

11 August 2018 9:00 am

As the great Bossa Nova musician Tom Jobim liked to say, Brazil is not for beginners. This tends to be…

It happened one summer: Bitter Orange, by Claire Fuller, reviewed

11 August 2018 9:00 am

Approaching her death, and the end of Claire Fuller’s third novel, Frances Jellico — for the most part a stickler…

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…

Lake Kolyvan in the Altai Republic. Watercolour by Thomas Atkinson

The magnificent Atkinsons: rigours of travel in 19th-century Russia

4 August 2018 9:00 am

Russia has always attracted a certain breed of foreigner: adventurers, drawn to the country’s vastness and emptiness; chancers, seeking fortunes…

Vignettes of a bygone English childhood

4 August 2018 9:00 am

Across the fields from the medieval manor house of Toad Hall, and the accompanying 16th-century timber-frame apothecary’s house which Alan…

The horror of post-Brexit Britain: Perfidious Albion, by Sam Byers, reviewed

4 August 2018 9:00 am

Edmundsbury, the fictional, sketchily rendered town in which the action of this novel takes place, is part of a social…

The proud, lonely queen dressed up in Garter ribbon and diamonds for dinner at Sandringham every night, even when alone with the king [Getty Images]

Queen Mary: stiff and cold, but no kleptomaniac

4 August 2018 9:00 am

The best royal biography ever written is probably James Pope-Hennessy’s Queen Mary. Published in 1959, only six years after the…

Why has V.S. Naipaul rejected the Trinidad of his birth?

4 August 2018 9:00 am

Savi Naipaul Akal’s publishing house is named after the peepal tree, in whose shade Buddha is said to have achieved…

Shades of Rear Window: People in the Room, by Norah Lange, reviewed

4 August 2018 9:00 am

A girl at a window, hidden behind curtains, watches three women in a dimly lit drawing room in the house…

The First Opium War: The East India Company’s Nemesis and other boats destroy the Chinese war junks in Anson Bay, 7 January 1841 [Bridgeman Art Library]

Global Britain was built as a narco-empire

4 August 2018 9:00 am

China, wrote Adam Smith, is ‘one of the richest, that is, one of the most fertile, best cultivated, most industrious…

The two works of fiction I re-read annually

4 August 2018 9:00 am

Long ago, I interviewed Edmund White and found that the photographer assigned to the job was the incomparable Jane Bown…