Books

A ponderous parable for our times: The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana

6 June 2020 9:00 am

Twins are literary dynamite. For writers, they’re perfect for thrashing out notions of free will, the pinballing of cause and…

Greco-Roman civilisation has dominated ancient history for too long

6 June 2020 9:00 am

What have the Akkadians ever done for us? As it turns out, rather a lot, as Philip Matyszak reveals in…

How I finally came to terms with my sister’s death

6 June 2020 9:00 am

‘Grief is the price we pay for love,’ the Queen once wrote. This memoir is steeped in the pain of…

For a creative writing exercise in lockdown, revisit George Perec

6 June 2020 9:00 am

Those who have been on creative writing courses may be familiar with the ‘I remember’ exercise. The two words become…

They took a lot of flak: the lives of the Lancaster bombers

6 June 2020 9:00 am

Those of us who write occasionally about military aviation can only admire the compelling personal experience that John Nichol brings…

From persecuted to persecutors: The Mayflower Pilgrims fall out

6 June 2020 9:00 am

The Mayflower’s journey did not simply end with landfall at Plymouth Rock, if indeed it ever arrived there in the…

How kind is humankind?

30 May 2020 9:00 am

Are humans by nature really more puppy than wolf? Oren Harman tests the science

My mother — as I remember her best

30 May 2020 9:00 am

Nine cups of milky Nescafé Gold Blend a day; a low-tar cigarette smouldering; a hot-water-bottle always on her lap; the…

Gardening is the great panacea

30 May 2020 9:00 am

Viewed from a purely private garden perspective, this has been a ver mirabilis. The blossom has been wonderful and long-lasting,…

Children go missing: the latest crime fiction reviewed

30 May 2020 9:00 am

Hot on the heels of The Stranger, the Netflix series based on his novel but transplanted to the UK, Harlan…

The establishment was always covering up for Bob Boothby

30 May 2020 9:00 am

Just after John Pearson finished writing The Profession of Violence, his celebrated biography of the Krays, both his and his…

Bullying on Twitter is nothing compared with what Charles II’s mistresses endured

30 May 2020 9:00 am

Strolling through Whitehall Palace in the early years of the Restoration, Samuel Pepys was thrilled to spy a washing line…

The shock of discovering your ancestors were slave traders

23 May 2020 9:00 am

If I had a slave owner in my family background I’d probably keep quiet about it. Richard Atkinson, in his…

The best way to cope with rejection is to write about it

23 May 2020 9:00 am

With more than a dozen acclaimed novels to her name, not to mention short stories, poetry, a memoir and a…

The Plantagenet we always forget

23 May 2020 9:00 am

Watching Heston Blumenthal arrange the infernal horror that is a lamprey’s head on a plate is one thing; seeing an…

Where did birds first learn to sing?

23 May 2020 9:00 am

Fieldwork can move the most rigorous scientist to lyricism, as Mark Cocker discovers

The sorrows of young Hillary: Rodham, by Curtis Sittenfeld, reviewed

23 May 2020 9:00 am

Question: which American president and first lady would you care to imagine having intercourse? If that provokes a shudder, be…

Disrupting the world — from a small bedroom in Hounslow

23 May 2020 9:00 am

On 6 May 2010 the eurozone crisis was tearing through the continent. Greece was bankrupt, and it looked as though…

France will always have a love-hate relationship with its heroes

23 May 2020 9:00 am

The French have a love-hate relationship with heroes. For the great 19th-century historian Jules Michelet, the French Revolution was supposed…

The genuine polymath is still one in a million

16 May 2020 9:00 am

With unlimited information just a click away, everyone can pass as a polymath today, says Philip Hensher

Houdini looks bound to captivate us forever

16 May 2020 9:00 am

Give thanks to the person who invented Venetian blinds, they say, or it would be curtains for us all. Curtains…

Vain, inbred and inept: how could the Habsburgs have survived so long?

16 May 2020 9:00 am

One of the great mysteries of European history is how for the best part of 700 years a family who…

Victorian novels to enjoy in lockdown

16 May 2020 9:00 am

It’s the perfect opportunity to crack open those classics of 19th-century fiction you’ve always been meaning to read, and I…

Taxonomy reaches celebrity heights

16 May 2020 9:00 am

Heteropoda davidbowie is a species of huntsman spider. Though rare, it has been found in parts of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia…

A passionate wartime love story is rescued from oblivion

16 May 2020 9:00 am

Once in a while, just at the right moment, a truly gorgeous real-life love story appears out of the blue,…