Books

Margaret Atwood seems embarrassed by the sheer volume of her output

26 February 2022 9:00 am

Margaret Atwood is among the major writers of English fiction of our time. This is a very boring way to…

Has the role of resistance in the second world war been exaggerated?

26 February 2022 9:00 am

When in 1941 Winston Churchill famously declared that the newly formed Special Operations Executive, set up to encourage resistance movements,…

That sinking feeling: The Swimmers, by Julie Otsuka, reviewed

26 February 2022 9:00 am

Julie Otsuka has good rhythm, sentences that move to a satisfying beat. Even as her tone shifts — from tender…

Truly magnificent: the splendour of Suleiman I

26 February 2022 9:00 am

Suleiman I richly deserved his epithet, as this vivid account of his early years illustrates, says Jason Burke

A playful version of the universe: Pure Colour, by Sheila Heti, reviewed

26 February 2022 9:00 am

Readers familiar with Sheila Heti’s work, most notably How Should a Person Be? and Motherhood, in which she examines both…

The machinations of the Dudleys make Game of Thrones look tame

26 February 2022 9:00 am

This is the gripping story of the ever-fluctuating fortunes of three generations of the Dudley dynasty, servants to — and…

Masters of the opium trade: the fabulous wealth of the Sassoons

19 February 2022 9:00 am

David Abulafia admires the shrewdness, generosity and panache of the Sassoons over many generations

From pirates to princes — the heroic transformation of the Normans

19 February 2022 9:00 am

The Normans had an astonishingly good run. Not only did they take over England in 1066, of course, but they…

Christina Patterson overcomes family misfortunes

19 February 2022 9:00 am

The journalist and broadcaster Christina Patterson’s memoir begins promisingly. She has a talent for vivid visual description, not least: ‘We…

What’s to become of Africa’s teeming youth?

19 February 2022 9:00 am

Demographers are attached to their theories. The field’s most enduring is the ‘demographic transition’, whereby modernisation inexorably lowers a society’s…

Inside New India: Run and Hide, by Pankaj Mishra, reviewed

19 February 2022 9:00 am

The first novel in more than 20 years from the essayist and cultural analyst Pankaj Mishra is as sharp, provocative…

Playing until her fingers bled: the dedication of the pianist Maria Yudina

19 February 2022 9:00 am

The 20th century was an amazing time for Russian pianists, and the worse things got, politically and militarily, the more…

Why did Britain lock up so many innocent refugees in 1940?

12 February 2022 9:00 am

Despite prostrate Germany’s need for the return of its men, in Britain we didn’t release our prisoners of war until…

Watcher of the skies: John Constable, painter and meteorologist

12 February 2022 9:00 am

Philip Hensher describes how John Constable’s energy and imagination freed British art from the constraints of the past

Lonely voices: Dance Move, by Wendy Erskine, reviewed

12 February 2022 9:00 am

‘The drawer beside Roberta’s bed contained remnants of other people’s fun’: so begins ‘Mathematics’, one of 11 stories in this…

Know your left from your right: the brain’s divided hemispheres

12 February 2022 9:00 am

The dust jacket of The Matter With Things quotes a large statement from an Oxford professor: ‘This is one of…

The best and coolest decade: nostalgia for the 1990s

12 February 2022 9:00 am

The long 1990s began with the Pixies album Surfer Rosa in 1989 and ended with the invasion of Iraq in…

A Canadian’s experience of the migrant’s ordeal

12 February 2022 9:00 am

No one boards an overladen dinghy and sets out across a choppy sea without very good reason. Laden into migrant…

An innocent abroad: a Dutch tour operator in 1980s Russia

12 February 2022 9:00 am

‘One morning in late October 1988,’ begins TheLong Song of Tchaikovsky Street, ‘this dapper-looking guy from Leiden asked me if…

Don’t listen to Johann Hari to help your attention span

5 February 2022 9:00 am

In 1887, Friedrich Nietzsche made a complaint about the modern world, writing in The Gay Science: Even now one is…

Eugenics will never work — thankfully

5 February 2022 9:00 am

The creation of a master race is an ancient idea which, thankfully, can never work, says Sam Leith

Abstract and concrete: the beauty of brutalism

5 February 2022 9:00 am

Nothing divides the British like modernist architecture. Traditionalists are suspicious of its utopian ambitions and dismiss it as ugly; proponents…

Is Julian Assange on a hiding to nothing?

5 February 2022 9:00 am

A question looms throughout this book: is it better to die rather than experience the wrath of a publicly shamed…

Both epic and intimate: The Love Songs of W.E. Du Bois, by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, reviewed

5 February 2022 9:00 am

To write a first novel of 800 pages is either supremely confident or crazy. Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, a professor of…

Is it an exaggeration to talk of a ‘gender war’?

5 February 2022 9:00 am

According to Nina Power’s forceful and rather unusual What Do Men Want?, we in the West are currently engaged in…