Books

The puppet masters

17 February 2024 9:00 am

Among the Western democracies there are increasing signs that things are falling apart – our governments no longer know what…

Reluctant servant of the Raj: Burma Sahib, by Paul Theroux, reviewed

17 February 2024 9:00 am

Few personal details survive about Eric Blair’s life as a policeman in Burma, making his years in the East fertile ground for the novelist

Four dangerous visionary writers

17 February 2024 9:00 am

Simon Ings examines the lives of Maxim Gorky, Maurice Barrès, Gabriele D’Annunzio and Ding Ling, whose propagandism helped shape – and misshape – the 20th century

A mother-daughter love story

17 February 2024 9:00 am

In her latest memoir, Leslie Jamison describes her pregnancy, experience of childbirth and devotion to her baby, returning repeatedly to the dilemmas of a working mother

The firebrand preacher who put Martin Luther in the shade

17 February 2024 9:00 am

Andrew Drummond traces the short, turbulent career of Thomas Müntzer, the rabble-rousing revolutionary behind the peasants’ uprising in 1520s Germany

Flaubert, snow, poverty, rhythm … the random musings of Anne Carson

17 February 2024 9:00 am

It is thrillingly difficult to keep one’s balance in Carson’s topsy-turvy world as she meditates on a wide range of subjects in poetry, pictures and prose

After Queen Victoria, the flood

17 February 2024 9:00 am

Alwyn Turner draws on popular culture to show how violent protest and unrest followed the old queen’s death, making nonsense of the fabled Edwardian ‘golden summer’

What do we mean when we say we are ‘giving up’?

17 February 2024 9:00 am

Adam Phillips explores the various implications of the phrase, contrasting giving up smoking or alcohol with giving up hope – and being given up on

Lord Byron had many faults, but writing dull letters wasn’t one of them

17 February 2024 9:00 am

Andrew Stauffer traces the poet’s tumultuous life through some of the most remarkable missives in the English language

Extremes of passion: What Will Survive of Us, by Howard Jacobson, reviewed

10 February 2024 9:00 am

On first meeting, Sam and Lily both suffer a coup de foudre and embark on an affair involving submission and sado-masochism. But where will it lead?

Victims of a cruel prejudice: the last two men to be executed for sodomy in England

10 February 2024 9:00 am

Chris Bryant describes in painful detail how James Pratt and John Smith, working-class men from the Midlands, fell foul of the ‘bloodthirsty English justice system’ in 1835

Saviours of souls: the heroism of lifeboat crews

10 February 2024 9:00 am

Helen Doe’s moving history of the RNLI celebrates the volunteers who, over the centuries, have risked their own lives for those in peril on the sea

Heartbreak in the workplace: Green Dot, by Madeleine Gray, reviewed

10 February 2024 9:00 am

Hera is 24, bisexual and usually dates women. But her infatuation with Arthur, an older, married journalist in her office, grows all-consuming

Progressives vs. bigots: How I Won a Nobel Prize, by Julius Taranto, reviewed

10 February 2024 9:00 am

When a quantum physicist and her partner reluctantly move to a university staffed by cancelled luminaries the scene is set for a darkly comic clash of ideologies

Thugs in drape jackets: when the Teddy Boys ruled the roost

10 February 2024 9:00 am

Bleak 1950s Britain saw the birth of the first working-class youth counterculture, but the Teds were a surprisingly short-lived – if violent – phenomenon

The perils of Prague: Parasol Against the Axe, by Helen Oyeyemi, reviewed

10 February 2024 9:00 am

Three women with a criminal past meet for a weekend hen party – but any hopes of enjoying themselves are soon dashed

The greed and hypocrisy of the opium trade continue to shock

10 February 2024 9:00 am

Amitav Ghosh admits he found writing his history difficult because of the obscene profiteering and suffering he had to cover

Is writing now changing the world for the worse?

3 February 2024 9:00 am

Humanity’s great civilising accomplishment may have slipped the leash. Computer programs and surveillance also involve ‘writing’, potentially making us decreasingly human

Music was always Anthony Burgess’s first love

3 February 2024 9:00 am

A gifted pianist and composer, Burgess combined his talents in a superb series of music reviews, published for the first time in a complete collection

No one could match Tess, to Thomas Hardy’s dismay

3 February 2024 9:00 am

Hardy’s 38-year marriage to Emma Gifford was notoriously acrimonious; but even his much younger second wife, Florence, never seemed to measure up to his fictional heroines

Copyright chaos grows deeper by the minute

3 February 2024 9:00 am

With AI and ChatGPT, we now have an exploding copyright arena in which all bets seem to be off

The thoughts of Chairman Xi – in digestible form

3 February 2024 9:00 am

Steve Tsang and Olivia Cheung helpfully cut through the jargon of interminable speeches and publications, and the totalitarian vision they expose is not reassuring

Gang warfare in the west of Ireland: Wild Houses, by Colin Barrett, reviewed

3 February 2024 9:00 am

The brother of a small-time drugs dealer is kidnapped, and his family and girlfriend set off to find him over the course of one violent, hectic weekend

A wealth of knowledge salvaged from shipwrecks

3 February 2024 9:00 am

Goods found on board can illuminate trade routes and global connections, often going back thousands of years, in ways no other archaeological sites can

Back from the beyond: The Book of Love, by Kelly Link, reviewed

3 February 2024 9:00 am

Three adolescents reappear in their home town on the Massachusetts coast, having been presumed dead – which is closer to the truth than their families realise