Family history

Messy family matters: Bad Relations, by Cressida Connolly, reviewed

14 May 2022 9:00 am

Cressida Connolly’s new novel begins with a couple of endings. It’s spring 1855, and on the battlefields of the Crimea…

Jonathan Bate weaves a memoir around madness in English literature

23 April 2022 9:00 am

There is a trend for books in which academics write personally about their engagement with literature. Examples include Lara Feigel’s…

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…

Variations on a theme: To Paradise, by Hanya Yanagihara, reviewed

15 January 2022 9:00 am

My daunting brief: to tell you about Hanya Yanagihara and her new, uncategorisable 720-page novel in 550 words. It’s the…

The cosmopolitan spirit of the Middle East vanished with the Ottomans

28 August 2021 9:00 am

One of the most depressing vignettes in Michael Vatikiotis’s agreeably meandering account of his cosmopolitan family’s experiences in the Near…

From family home to mausoleum: the Musée Nissim Camondo

8 May 2021 9:00 am

The potter and author Edmund de Waal revisits familiar terrain at an angle in his third book, Letters to Camondo.…

Family secrets: Life Sentences, by Billy O’Callaghan, reviewed

16 January 2021 9:00 am

Despite innovative work by younger writers, there remains a prominent strain in Irish literature of what we might call the…

Aunt Munca’s murky past

31 October 2020 9:00 am

Kiss Myself Goodbye. It sounds a bit like a William Boyd novel. It looks likea William Boyd novel, too: the…

Treasures or clutter? The problem of knowing what to keep

29 August 2020 9:00 am

Every so often the past makes a pass at you. An old school report, a train ticket, a curl from…

When six of her 12 children went mad, Mimi Galvin did her best to make to light of it

4 April 2020 9:00 am

Don Galvin and Mimi Blayney married in December 1944. It was a shotgun wedding. They had been high school sweethearts.…

Dr Erasmus Darwin playing chess with his son, c.1780

An intellectual dynasty: the Darwins, Wedgwoods and their notable intermarriages

2 February 2019 9:00 am

Readers of Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage will remember that its author set out to write a life of…

The best way to escape my abusive family was to write novels

17 February 2018 9:00 am

Early on in Amy Tan’s 1989 bestseller, The Joy Luck Club, a Chinese concubine slices a chunk of flesh from…

Vita Sackville-West, c. 1940

More family history from Knole and Sissinghurst

16 April 2016 9:00 am

In deciding to write a book about her forebears and herself, Juliet Nicolson follows in their footsteps. Given that her…

David Pryce-Jones settles old scores

2 January 2016 9:00 am

The geological title of this unhappy memoir is an apt metaphor for fissures in the relationships between individuals of David…

Cat among the pigeons: Jennifer Fry, the exotic beauty who so disrupted life at Farringdon House in the 1940s

My mad gay grandfather and me

18 October 2014 9:00 am

Mirabel Cecil on Lord Berners’s volatile ménage — as surprising and colourful as his famous dyed doves

The Etonian peer who became an assistant to a Mexican commie

18 October 2014 9:00 am

The lefty hereditary peer has few equals as a figure of fun, in life or literature. The late Tony Benn…

The Australian literary icon who fooled her family

21 June 2014 9:00 am

There aren’t many places you can get shouty about Proust without losing your job. The Lane Bookshop in Perth, Western…