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A.N. Wilson rss

Peter Levi Photo: Getty

Peter Levi – poet, priest and life-enhancer

30 August 2014
Peter Levi: Oxford Romantic Brigid Allen

Signal Books,, pp.452, £19.99, ISBN: 9781903493989

Hilaire Belloc was once being discussed on some television programme. One of the panellists was Peter Levi. The other critics expressed their doubts about the old boy. Levi leaned forward… Read more

John Betjeman Photo: Getty

A.N. Wilson

23 August 2014

Like many inward-looking children, I always doodled stories and poems. Knowing one wanted to be a writer is a different matter altogether. That moment came when I read Lytton Strachey’s… Read more

Portrait of Dante by Domenico di Michelino

A divine guide to Dante

28 June 2014
Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity Prue Shaw

Liveright Publishing Corporation, pp.352, £20, ISBN: 9780871407429

Reading Dante is an experience of a lifetime. You never come to the end of it. But,  like Dante himself, at large in the frightening wood, you need a companion… Read more

Front quad of Oriel College, Oxford

Oriel: the college that shaped the spiritual heart of 19th century Britain

5 April 2014
Oriel College: A History Jeremy Catto (ed)

OUP, pp.847, £85, ISBN: 9780199595723

Oriel was only the fifth college to be founded in Oxford, in 1326. Although it has gone through periods of relative obscurity in the intervening seven centuries, it has also,… Read more

Gin and sin: the sign of the ‘Mischief’, circa 1850

G without T

7 December 2013

G and T, the favoured cure for gyppy tummy in Himalayan hill-stations, bubbled home from the Raj to the English suburbs to become the aperitif of choice in Betjemanic golf… Read more

Orwell

George Orwell's doublethink

26 October 2013
George Orwell: English Rebel Robert Colls

OUP, pp.304, £25, ISBN: 9780199680801

This is the most sensible and systematic interpretation of George Orwell’s books that I have ever read. It generously acknowledges the true stature of the great works — most notably,… Read more

Reflections on a Metaphysical Flaneur, by Raymond Tallis - review

10 August 2013
Reflections of a Metaphysical Flâneur and Other Essays Raymond Tallis

Acumen, pp.299, £14.99, ISBN: 9781844656660

There are books we read for pleasure and there are books we are paid to review. However enjoyable the books we review, they are still, in some sense, ‘work’, and… Read more

The history girl

13 July 2013
Hunters in the Snow Daisy Hildyard

Cape, pp.296, £16.99, ISBN: 9780224097444

Ronald Knox, found awake aged four by a nanny, was asked what he was thinking about, and he replied ‘the past’. I thought of this when reading Hunters in the… Read more

British Royalty. pic: 1933. HRH.The Duchess of York, portrait. The Duchess of York, (1900-2002) born Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, was Queen Consort to King George VI, and on his death became the Queen Mother, ever popular with the people.

Such fun!

24 November 2012
Counting One’s Blessings: The Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother William Shawcross (editor)

Macmillan, pp.524, £25, ISBN: 9780230754966

Nearly all the pages in this book are filled with thank-you letters. As a child, Elizabeth Bowes Lyon was writing to thank for presents of sweets and chocolates. As the… Read more

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Bertie: A Life of Edward VII, by Jane Ridley

18 August 2012
Bertie: A Life of Edward VII Jane Ridley

Chatto & Windus, pp.624, 30, ISBN: 9780701176143

This book deserves to be named in the same breath as those two great classics of royal biography, Roger Fulford’s Royal Dukes and James Pope-Hennessy’s Queen Mary. It shares with… Read more

Good queen, bad subject

2 June 2012

There is a paradox at the heart of all books about the Queen. The very thing which makes her such a successful constitutional monarch is what makes her an impossible… Read more

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Bookends: Shady people in the sun

26 May 2012

Carla McKay’s The Folly of French Kissing (Gibson Square, £7.99) is a very funny, cynical tale about British expatriates in the Languedoc. The blurb says ‘Toujours Provence meets Miss Marple’,… Read more

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Rotten, vicious times

14 April 2012
Seasons in the Sun: The Battle for Britain, 1974-1979 Dominic Sandbrook

Allen Lane, pp.911, 30

A.N. Wilson recalls the worst decade of  recent history and the death throes of Old England There was a distressing news story the other day about a man who did… Read more

A.N. Wilson

10 March 2012

Some time in the olden days, an Irishman called St Piran took the trouble to float over the ocean on a millstone and land in Cornwall, with the purpose of… Read more

Helping our unbelief

21 January 2012
Religion for Atheists Alain de Botton

Hamish Hamilton, pp.320, 18.99

Over 125 of the 320 pages in this book are either blank, or taken up with black-and-white illustrations, of subjects as various as Madonna and her former husband Guy Ritchie,… Read more

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In a class of his own

27 August 2011
Mr Tibbits’s Catholic School Ysenda Maxtone Graham, illustrated by Kath Walker

Slightly Foxed, pp.199, 15

Ysenda Maxtone Graham’s Mr Tibbits’s Catholic School captures the hilarity and pathos of an eccentric headmaster and the unusual establishment he founded in Kensington in the Thirties. A.N.Wilson introduces us… Read more

Worshippers at the high altar

20 August 2011
Newman and His Contemporaries Edward Short

T&T Clark, pp.530, 18.99

What grabbed me about Newman and His Contemporaries was a puff from an Australian writer quoted on the back. This book, it said, ‘is like a Victorian Dance to the… Read more

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The way to dusty death

21 May 2011
The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress Beryl Bainbridge

Little Brown, pp.198, 16.99

Beryl Bainbridge’s last novel is a haunting echo of her own final years, according to A. N. Wilson Some writers die years before bodily demise. They lose their grip. In… Read more

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When wailing is appropriate

7 May 2011
The Good Book: A Secular Bible A.C. Grayling

Bloomsbury, pp.597, 25

This is a strange exercise. It is a commonplace book of quotations from great authors, assembled by the philosopher A. C. Grayling. The extracts from the great books, how- ever,… Read more

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The man mountain of Fleet Street

23 April 2011
G. K. Chesterton: A Biography Ian Ker

OUP, pp.747, 35

A. N. Wilson has a queasy feeling that he won’t be re-reading the works of G. K. Chesterton for a while Yet another book on Chesterton! William Oddie is only… Read more

Perchance to dream

5 February 2011
The Immortalization COmmission: Science and the Strange Quest to Cheat Death John Gray

Allen Lane, pp.273, 18.99

This book reads like an interesting after- dinner conversation between intelligent friends. That said, it is a rambling conversation, and although it is extremely entertaining, it does not add up… Read more

Diary

27 November 2010

A.N. Wilson’s Diary The Wedgwood Museum in Barlaston, near Stoke-on-Trent, contains some of the most stupendous ceramics in the British Isles. My heart swells with filial pride at the cases… Read more

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Family favourites

11 September 2010
Wait for Me! Deborah Devonshire

John Murray, pp.370, 20

Because Deborah Devonshire’s journalism has nearly always made me laugh, and because she seems like one of the jollier aunts in P. G. Wodehouse — an Aunt Dahlia, not an… Read more

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Sun Myung Moon among the stars

9 June 2010
Brief Lives Paul Johnson

Hutchinson, pp.296, 20

Where would the popes, presidents and princesses of the world be without Paul Johnson, the former editor of the New Statesman, and much loved columnist in this and other periodicals?… Read more

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Mystery of the empty tomb

2 June 2010
Newman’s Unquiet Grave: The Reluctant Saint John Cornwell

Continuum, pp.273, 18.99

John Henry Newman was an electrifying personality who has attracted numerous biographers and commentators. John Cornwell, in his excellent guided tour around this well-ploughed field, recalls the young woman in… Read more