Lead book review

More juicy gossip from Kenneth ‘Climbing’ Rose

14 December 2019 9:00 am

When this second volume of diaries begins in 1979, Kenneth Rose is 54 and well established as the author of…

As English spread over the subcontinent, India lost forever its rich Persianate literary heritage

7 December 2019 9:00 am

In the seventh century, the Chinese Buddhist monk Xuanzang made an epic journey through the Gobi desert and over the…

When Cartier was the girls’ best friend

30 November 2019 9:00 am

The word ‘jewel’ makes the heart beat a little faster. Great jewels have always epitomised beauty, love — illicit or…

The carnage inside Charlie Hebdo: an eyewitness’s account of the attack

23 November 2019 9:00 am

It is almost five years since two trained jihadists went into the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris and killed…

Books of the year – part two

16 November 2019 9:00 am

Richard Ingrams A book that gave me great enjoyment (for all the wrong reasons) was Harvest Bells: New and Uncollected…

Books of the year – part one

9 November 2019 9:00 am

Philip Hensher The best novels of the year were Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys (Fleet, £16.99) and James Meek’s To…

Three dashing Frenchmen captivate Victorian London

2 November 2019 9:00 am

Do not google Samuel Jean Pozzi. If you want to enjoy Julian Barnes’s The Man in the Red Coat —…

Is there no field in which the Jewish mindset doesn’t excel?

26 October 2019 9:00 am

More than 20 years ago, George Steiner, meditating on 2,000 years of persecution and suffering, posed the ‘taboo’ question that…

An unconventional biography of the visionary architect Frank Lloyd Wright

19 October 2019 9:00 am

Paul Hendrickson’s previous (and very fine) book was Hemingway’s Boat, published in Britain in 2012. It was a nice conceit…

Three remarkable sisters at the heart of 20th-century Chinese politics

12 October 2019 9:00 am

In their lifetime, and afterwards, the Soong sisters from Shanghai seemed like figures from a Chinese fairy tale. There were…

Man’s first instinct has always been to return to the sea

5 October 2019 9:00 am

Travelling the Indus valley late in the third millennium BC you would have been awed by two Bronze Age megacities,…

For millennials, pre-Thatcher Britain must seem another — quite mystifying — country

28 September 2019 9:00 am

Lymeswold; Hi-de-Hi!; nuclear-free zones; Walkmans; the Metro; Red Robbo; the SDP; Michael Foot’s Cenotaph donkey-jacket; Protest and Survive; Steve Davis…

The best of journeys: Justin Marozzi’s monumental trek through the history of the Muslim world

21 September 2019 9:00 am

This impressively clever, careful, and often beautiful book is the best sort of journey. It takes us through 15 cities…

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…

What made Lucian Freud so irresistible to women?

7 September 2019 9:00 am

Amedeo Modigliani thought Nina Hamnett, muse, painter, memoirist, had ‘the best tits in Europe’. She fell 40 feet from a…

Did Christianity make the western mind — or was it the other way round?

31 August 2019 9:00 am

Nobody can accuse Tom Holland of shying away from big subjects. Dominion is nothing less than a history of Christianity…

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…