Books

‘Dancing to Restore an Eclipsed Moon’ by Edward S. Curtis, 1914

Let there be night: adventures in the dark

5 January 2019 9:00 am

Edward S. Curtis’s 1914 photograph, ‘Dancing to Restore an Eclipsed Moon’, shows the Kwakiutl tribe of North American Indians circling…

Credit: Getty Images

The intoxicating languor of the Caribbean

5 January 2019 9:00 am

Ian Fleming’s voodoo extravaganza Live and Let Die finds James Bond in rapt consultation of The Traveller’s Tree by Patrick…

Franz Kafka. Credit: Getty Images

The absurd struggle to claim ownership of Kafka

5 January 2019 9:00 am

Benjamin Balint’s Kafka’s Last Trial is a legal and philosophical black comedy of the first water, complete, like all the…

Portrait of the Artist’s wife, by Henry Herbert La Thangue. Credit: Bridgeman Images

Tear-stained ramblings that remained unsent

5 January 2019 9:00 am

The deserved success of Shaun Usher’s marvellous anthology Letters of Note has inspired several imitators, and Caroline Atkins’s sparkling collection…

Grand Duke Francesco I de Medici may have been poisoned with arsenic by his brother Ferdinando. Portrait by Agnolo Bronzino

The age of chivalry was an age of devilry

5 January 2019 9:00 am

Agatha Christie’s spirit must be loving this poisonous new historical entertainment. Eleanor Herman has already enjoyed the success of Sex…

Portrait of Casanova. Credit: Getty Images

Casanova: the scandalous libertine who seduced his own daughter

5 January 2019 9:00 am

This monumental unabridged audio production of Casanova’s memoir The Story of My Life in three volumes covers his first 49…

Theodore Roosevelt campaigning in the summer of 1912

Words to rally and inspire: stirring speeches from Elizabeth I to the present

15 December 2018 9:00 am

It was a surprise, on reading Speeches of Note, to find myself laughing and chuckling at the speech of a…

Sir William Wilde, father of Oscar Wilde, by J.H. Maguire

The wildest Wilde of all: the scandalous life of Oscar’s father

15 December 2018 9:00 am

‘To have a father is always big news,’ according to the narrator of Sebastian Barry’s early novel, The Engine of…

View from the Rigi, Switzerland. The last great blizzard is predicted to be in 2040

Dreaming of a white Christmas? Soon that’s all we’ll be able to do

15 December 2018 9:00 am

I like a book where you don’t think you’re going to be interested in the subject, but then find it’s…

Gulls, once unknown inland, are no longer ‘seagulls’ but have taken to nesting on rooftops in city centres.

Will seagulls become as scary as Hitchcock’s The Birds?

15 December 2018 9:00 am

Little Toller Books, in Dorset, aims to publish old and new writing on nature by the very best writers and…

Illustrations by Philippe Cousin

The minefield of mime: ‘halt’ to an American signifies ‘hi’ to an Arab

15 December 2018 9:00 am

You may have read about this during the Iraq war. A group of local people approach an American position. A…

Senior Nazis inspect the wreckage of the Wolf’s Lair after the failed Stauffenberg plot, July 1944.

Why didn’t they try harder to assassinate Hitler?

15 December 2018 9:00 am

Awareness of German opposition to Hitler is usually limited to Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg’s attempt to blow up the wretched…

Ma Jian

Biting political satire: China Dream, by Ma Jian, reviewed

15 December 2018 9:00 am

Ma Jian’s novels have been banned in his native China for 30 years and he has been hailed as ‘China’s…

Vivien Leigh in a publicity still for Waterloo Bridge, 1940

Vivien Leigh: the brilliant star that fast burned out

15 December 2018 9:00 am

‘Dark Star’ is a suitable enough title in itself, but the definition makes it a brilliant one: ‘A Dark Star’,…

Adam Mickiewicz, the author of Pan Tadeusz.

A Lithuanian Romeo and Juliet: Pan Tadeusz, by Adam Mickiewicz, reviewed

15 December 2018 9:00 am

It’s hard, in Britain, to imagine a popular museum devoted to a single poem. The Polish city of Wrocław hosts…

Relish — and cultivate — your grievances

15 December 2018 9:00 am

Grudges make the world go around, according to Sophie Hannah. They are ‘an important and fascinating part of human experience’,…

Henri-Charles-Ferdinand of Artois, Duke of Bordeaux and his sister Louise-Marie-Therèse of Artois at the Tuileries, by Louis Hersent (1777–1860)

How any mother — or baby — survived childbirth before the 20th century is astonishing

15 December 2018 9:00 am

Between 1300 and 1900 few things were more dangerous than giving birth. For poor and rich, the mortality rate was…

The Empress Marie-Louise of Austria giving birth to the King of Rome in 1811

How apartheid poisoned the world

15 December 2018 9:00 am

Around 1970 I was labelled ‘Public Enemy No. 1’ by white South Africa’s newspapers for leading militant anti-apartheid protests which…

Kenneth Rose

High society and low gossip: the journals of Kenneth Rose

15 December 2018 9:00 am

Kenneth Rose was gossip columnist by appointment to the aristocracy and gentry. He was, of course, a snob — nobody…

Stuck for something to read? Pick up a Penguin Classic

15 December 2018 9:00 am

In 1956, after Penguin Classics had published 60 titles, the editor-in-chief of Penguin Books, William Emrys Williams, wondered: ‘How many…

Spot the Shakespearean character

15 December 2018 9:00 am

Click here to view the answers

Shackleton’s ship The Nimrod trapped in McMurdo Sound.

Bitten by the cold: the strange attraction of polar exploration

15 December 2018 9:00 am

‘We had seen God in his splendours, heard the text that nature renders. We had reached the naked soul of…

‘Decorating for Christmas’ by Alfred W. Cooper (1854)

The pagan feast of Christmas

15 December 2018 9:00 am

This book, an excellent history of Christmas, made me think of a Christmas cartoon strip I once saw in Viz…

King’s College, Cambridge choir rehearse A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.

Divulging the secret of the famous ‘King’s sound’?

15 December 2018 9:00 am

Earlier this year The Spectator published an article in celebration of Evensong — the nightly sung service of the Anglican…

‘He had a rather melancholy face, and the air of a transplanted hidalgo’, said H.H. Asquith of John Meade Falkner.

In praise of John Meade Falkner: poet, arms-dealer and unforgettable novelist

15 December 2018 9:00 am

When H.H. Asquith, as prime minister, visited Elswick, Newcastle upon Tyne, during the first world war, he found a vast…