Lead book review

George Orwell. Credit: Getty Images

Novel explosives of the Cold War

24 August 2019 9:00 am

One autumn night in 1991, I stood on the rooftop terrace of a tacky villa in Saranda once owned by…

Migration in Europe is the ripple effect of the second world war

17 August 2019 9:00 am

Two words may pique the reader’s interest on the cover of this timely, panoramic history of Europe by the distinguished…

Homage to Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor

10 August 2019 9:00 am

It is not often that a book’s blurb gives any idea of what’s inside, but Helen Castor’s endorsement — ‘a…

Web of deceit: disinformation could prove the most powerful weapon of all

3 August 2019 9:00 am

We could begin almost anywhere. But let’s start in Ukraine, with Babar Aliev. Babar is a former gang leader who…

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…

Words of war: interviews with the children who survived Hitler’s invasion of Russia

20 July 2019 9:00 am

In 1990s Russia, war veterans were a bossy, even aggressive presence, upbraiding people in shops and pushing to the front…

The tragic story of Witold Pilecki, whose reports from Auschwitz fell on deaf ears

13 July 2019 9:00 am

On 14 October 1942, the 23 Swiss members of the International Committee of the Red Cross met in Geneva to…

The glory and the misery of Louis XIV’s France

6 July 2019 9:00 am

I was flicking through an old copy of The Spectator the other day, one of the issues containing contributors’ ‘Christmas…

A snapshot of George holding his infant daughter on Chapel Sands provides a key to the family mystery.

Solving the mystery of my mother’s kidnap

29 June 2019 9:00 am

At first glance, Laura Cumming’s memoir On Chapel Sands begins with what appears to be a happy ending. On an…

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.…

Heroism in a hopeless cause: why the crusades remain fascinating

15 June 2019 9:00 am

The crusades are part of everyone’s mental image of the Middle Ages. They extended, in one form or another, from…

Hostility to Islam has disguised a host of other prejudices

8 June 2019 9:00 am

In 2011, when the editor of Charlie Hebdo put Muhammad on the cover, he did so as the heir to…

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…

The flood-prone megacity of Wuhan on the Yangtze now has permeable pavements and artificial wetlands to soak up the water like a sponge

Towards a technological utopia

25 May 2019 9:00 am

The rebranding of John Browne has been a long and, to those of us living overseas, instructive affair. Readers will…

Letitia at the height of her fame in 1825. H.W. Pickersgill’s original portrait was exhibited at the Royal Academy

The celebrated poet who’s been erased from English literature

18 May 2019 9:00 am

Biographers are a shady lot. For all their claims about immortalising someone in print, as if their ink were a…

Richard Holbrooke as US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan in New Delhi, April 2009, a year before his death

How to lose friends and alienate people: Richard Holbrooke was a past master

11 May 2019 9:00 am

You may ask yourself, is it worth one of the best American non-fiction writers producing a book of just under…

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…

Brutus’s betrayal is a tragic inevitability. The soothsayer warns Julius Caesar to ‘Beware the Ides of March’, in a 19th-century wood engraving by Sir John Gilbert

Has Shakespeare become the mascot of Brexit Britain?

27 April 2019 9:00 am

The deployment of Shakespeare to describe Brexit is by now a cliché. It might take the form of a quotation,…

A 15th-century manuscript depicting Saladin as King of Egypt

A new version of Saladin — as silver-tongued diplomat

20 April 2019 9:00 am

I can only remember one page of any of the dozens of Ladybird histories that I read avidly as a…

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…

The English model Jean Shrimpton’s appearance at the Melbourne Races in 1965 hatless, gloveless and bare-legged in a mini-dress caused a press furore in Australia

It was pretty good for me: Joan Bakewell on the Sixties

6 April 2019 9:00 am

For me this book evokes a Gigi duet moment: ‘You wore a gown of gold.’ ‘I was all in blue.’…

The creation of Adam and Eve, depicted in a 12th-century Byzantine mosaic from Monreale, Sicily

How much of the Bible are Christians expected to believe?

30 March 2019 9:00 am

In this careful study of the sacred texts of Judaism and Christianity, John Barton, former Oriel and Laing professor of…

The outcome of Diderot’s discussions with Catherine was that she largely ignored his advice. Engraving from François Guizot’s Histoire de la France

How Diderot’s pleas to end despotism fell on deaf ears in Russia

23 March 2019 9:00 am

Denis Diderot (1713–84) is the least commemorated of the philosophes. Calls for his remains to be moved to the Panthéon…

The seducer and the spy: left, a reproduction of Anatoly Gorpenko’s portrait of the ‘master spy’;above, a Soviet commemorative stamp to mark Sorge’s ‘rehabilitation’ in 1961

Richard Sorge: the Soviet Union’s master spy

16 March 2019 9:00 am

Interviewed on the Today programme on 7 March, a former executive of the gigantic Chinese tech firm Huawei admitted: ‘It…

‘Mother and Child’, c.1901, Pablo Picasso

Two big books on motherhood and childlessness: Catherine Mayer got emotional

9 March 2019 9:00 am

A single survey, elevated by news organisations to scientific certainty, suggests that air travellers may be more susceptible to tears…