Book review – biography

The Little Mermaid, illustrated by Ivan Bilibin

The fairytale life of Hans Christian Andersen

24 May 2014 9:00 am

It has long been my habit, when approaching a new biography, to read the account of the subject’s childhood first,…

No worries: John Updike in his late fifties, on the beach at Swampscott, Mass

Up close and personal

26 April 2014 9:00 am

What should a writer write about? The question, so conducive to writer’s block, is made more acute when the writer…

Churchill reading in his library at Chartwell

Churchill was as mad as a badger. We should all be thankful

19 April 2014 9:00 am

Land sakes! Another book about Winston Churchill? Really? Give us a break, the average reader may think. Actually though, as…

‘Less political satire than back-handed homage:Charlie Chaplin in a scene from The Great Dictator

Charlie Chaplin, monster

12 April 2014 9:00 am

No actual birth certificate for Charles Spencer Chaplin has ever been found. The actor himself drew a blank when he…

Was Roy Jenkins the greatest prime minister we never had?

29 March 2014 9:00 am

In any list of the-best-prime-ministers-we never-had, the name of Roy Jenkins is likely to be prominent. He was intelligent, moderate,…

The talent and tragedy of Richard Pryor

22 March 2014 9:00 am

The troubles of Richard Pryor’s life are well known — from his childhood in a brothel to his self-immolation via…

Kim Philby at the press conference he called in 1955 to deny being the ‘Third Man’

Kim Philby got away with it because he was posh

8 March 2014 9:00 am

The story of Kim Philby is, of course, like so many English stories, really one of social class. He was…

Secrets of Candleford: the real Flora Thompson

1 March 2014 9:00 am

When Richard Mabey was researching this biography of Flora Thompson, author of Lark Rise to Candleford, he happened to stay…

A German soldier in the Western Desert in 1942 scans the horizon for enemy movements

A spectacular faller in the Benghazi stakes

1 March 2014 9:00 am

What an unedifying affair the war in the North African desert was, at least until November 1942 and the victory…

The Artist Formerly Known As Whistler

22 February 2014 9:00 am

When James Whistler was two years old, he was asked why he’d disappeared from company and hidden under a table.…

Hillary, Obama, Osama — and a hapless Bill

22 February 2014 9:00 am

The actor David Niven was once badgered by the American columnist William F. Buckley to introduce him to Marc Chagall,…

Richard Branson deserves (some) respect

8 February 2014 9:00 am

Tom Bower’s first biography of Sir Richard Branson, in 2000, was memorable for its hilarious account of the Virgin tycoon’s…

Portrait of Sheila by Cecil Beaton

Australia's entrancing Sheila

1 February 2014 9:00 am

The ‘dollar princesses’, those American heiresses who crossed the Atlantic in search of a titled husband, are familiar figures from…

The two people who brought us The Grapes of Wrath

25 January 2014 9:00 am

John Steinbeck (1902–1968), an ardent propagandist for the exploited underdogs of the Great Depression, had barely enough money for subsistence…

Breakdowns, suicide attempts — and four great novels

18 January 2014 9:00 am

Among the clever young Australians who came over here in the 1960s to find themselves and make their mark, a…

John Bellany: potent, prolific, patchy

11 January 2014 9:00 am

When John Bellany died in August last year, an odyssey that had alternately beguiled and infuriated the art world came…

What took Francis Mitterrand to the top?

14 December 2013 9:00 am

Of a dashing political rival, François Mitterrand once remarked: He was more intelligent than I was, he thought faster than…

'A little bit of rape is good for a man's soul': the outrageous life of Norman Mailer

23 November 2013 9:00 am

Heroically brave and mad, prodigious in his industry and appetites, Norman Mailer was an altogether excessive figure. Since his death…