Books

The problem of being, and writing

20 July 2019 9:00 am

The venerable Oxford philologist Max Müller held that ‘mythology, which was the bane of the ancient world, is in truth…

The novel Silicon Valley’s tech moguls won’t be amused to read

20 July 2019 9:00 am

Silicon Valley moguls might not find Zed a particularly amusing read. Joanna Kavenna’s latest mindbender features the CEO of a…

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…

Reshuffling ministers annually is no way to govern

13 July 2019 9:00 am

‘Annual reshuffles are crazy,’ remarked one of the prime minister’s most trusted advisers in July 1999 as I hovered outside…

Jerusalem’s libraries contain priceless treasures — but almost no one gets to see them

13 July 2019 9:00 am

The bearded figure clad in white robes and wandering barefoot through the streets of Jerusalem is not, in fact, the…

Washed up in Istanbul: 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World, by Elif Shafak, reviewed

13 July 2019 9:00 am

Elif Shafak once described Istanbul as a set of matryoshka dolls: a place where anything was possible. As with much…

Star-crossed lovers: Sweet Sorrow, by David Nicholls, reviewed

13 July 2019 9:00 am

The 16-year-old hero of David Nicholls’s fifth novel is ostensibly Everyboy. It is June 1997, the last day at dreary…

At long last love: Live a Little, by Howard Jacobson, reviewed

13 July 2019 9:00 am

Towards the end of Live a Little, one of its two main characters says: ‘I’m past the age of waiting…

The magnificence of Elizabethan portraiture

13 July 2019 9:00 am

Roy Strong first encountered the portraiture of Elizabeth I and her court while a schoolboy in post-war Edmonton. In the…

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…

The latest first novels are full of romantic misadventure

6 July 2019 9:00 am

Andrew Ridker’s The Altruists (Viking, £20) is a Jewish family saga of academic parents and grown-up offspring. From this rather…

Savagery in the Cape Colony: Red Dog, by Willem Anker, reviewed

6 July 2019 9:00 am

Red Dog is an ambitious hybrid of a book. It was published in South Africa to wide acclaim in 2014…

Feasts, flowers and plein-air painting at Benton End

6 July 2019 9:00 am

Cedric Morris is often referred to as an artist-plantsman, and while as a breeder of plants, most particularly of irises,…

The bias against digital music is more emotional than scientific

6 July 2019 9:00 am

It’s an increasingly common lament that computers have ruined everything, and a longing for the days before Google and Twitter,…

Haunting short stories of fear and frustration

6 July 2019 9:00 am

In Nicole Flattery’s Show Them a Good Time (Bloomsbury, £14.99), her female protagonists grapple with abusive relationships, degree courses, difficult…

Beauty on the beach: Isolde, by Irina Odoevtseva, reviewed

6 July 2019 9:00 am

France was to blame. Yes, France was most definitely to blame. He was never like this at home. So thinks…

From pets to pests: cats, rabbits and now raccoons

6 July 2019 9:00 am

I was shocked some years ago to discover, as I scratched bites on my ankles on holiday on Maui, that…

Harper Lee’s battle wasn’t with writer’s block but the whisky bottle

6 July 2019 9:00 am

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird remains one of the most beloved American novels of all time. Famously, Lee never…

A novel about depression that doesn’t depress: Starling Days, by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, reviewed

6 July 2019 9:00 am

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan has achieved that rare feat, in her second novel Starling Days, of writing a convincing novel about…

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…

Vampire bats, like succubi, prey on sleeping men at full moon in a 19th-century engraving

Creatures of the night: why do we find them irresistible?

29 June 2019 9:00 am

When it was recently announced that Robert Pattinson, who played the vampire Edward Cullen in the Twilight films, had secured…

An inflatable boat with 47 migrants is rescued off Libya’s coast in January 2019. Credit: Getty Images

Desperate souls: Travellers, by Helon Habila, reviewed

29 June 2019 9:00 am

Death by water haunts the stories of Africans in Europe that flow through this fourth novel by Helon Habila. From…

Niven Govinden. Credit: Dan Lepard

A drag army in waiting: This Brutal House, by Niven Govinden, reviewed

29 June 2019 9:00 am

Niven Govinden’s This Brutal House is set in the demi-monde of the New York vogue ball. This is an organised,…

Barry Lopez. Credit: John Clark

For a passionate ecologist, Barry Lopez burns a lot of oil

29 June 2019 9:00 am

It is more than a generation since the appearance of Barry Lopez’s classic Arctic Dreams. That book’s effortless integration of…

‘The Bibliophile’, by Johann Hamza (1850–1921)

From bibliomania to kleptomania: the serious crimes of book lovers

29 June 2019 9:00 am

In the spring of 1998, Rolling Stones fans in Germany were disappointed to hear that the band had been forced…