Books

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Catchwords for today — what’s in, what’s out

12 January 2019 9:00 am

The mid-term elections in the US, when Democrats took over Congress, were hailed as a victory for ‘progressives’, while David…

When William I’s bloody conquest came to an end, it was his coronation in London, on Christmas Day 1066, that sealed it

What did the Romans ever do for London?

12 January 2019 9:00 am

When Bishop Guy of Amiens looked across the Channel in the 11th century he saw ‘teeming London [which] shines bright.…

Chigozie Obioma. Credit: Jason Keith.

An Igbo Paradise Lost: An Orchestra of Minorities, by Chigozie Obioma, reviewed

12 January 2019 9:00 am

Nurture hatred in your heart and you will keep ‘an unfed tiger in a house full of children’. A man…

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Life and death in 1970s Belfast: For the Good Times, by David Keenan, reviewed

12 January 2019 9:00 am

David Keenan’s debut novel, This is Memorial Device, about a small town in Lanarkshire and its post-punk scene, showed that…

Francis Bacon in front of his triptych at the Galerie Claude Bernard in the Rue des Beaux Arts, Paris in 1977

France gets a taste for Bacon

12 January 2019 9:00 am

The case of Michael Peppiatt is a curious one. He first met Francis Bacon when he was an undergraduate at…

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In Epping Forest’s dark undergrowth

12 January 2019 9:00 am

In this current era of identity politics and a more fluid approach to gender and sexuality amongst a younger generation,…

‘The Break-up of the Ice’ by Claude Monet

How Calouste Gulbenkian became the richest man in the world

5 January 2019 9:00 am

Whenever I find myself visiting some great historic house, I always like to break off from gawping at tapestries to…

‘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…

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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…