Melanie McDonagh rss

Melanie McDonagh is a leaderwriter for the Evening Standard and Spectator contributor. Irish, living in London.

Paris in the springtime: the Jardin des Plantes


15 March 2014

No city really multitasks like Paris, shorthand for romance, culture, fashion, gastronomy and the kind of street life you find on Robert Doisneau calendars. The £69 Eurostar return opens up… Read more


Secrets of Candleford: the real Flora Thompson

1 March 2014
Dreams of the Good Life Richard Mabey

Allen Lane, pp.208, £16.99, ISBN: 9781846142789

When Richard Mabey was researching this biography of Flora Thompson, author of Lark Rise to Candleford, he happened to stay at a farmhouse B&B near Bath. Ambling around, he found… Read more

A little girl climbing into the confessi

Forgive me, Father

8 February 2014

For non-Catholics, the most luridly fascinating aspect of Catholicism is confession. Telling your inmost sins — and we know what they are — to a male cleric, eh? In a… Read more

Segolene Royal, Valerie Trierweiler and  Julie Gayet Photo: AFP/Getty

François Hollande - all the president's women

18 January 2014

Obviously, the whole Hollande business is utterly compelling from a prurient point of view, though journalists did brilliantly in coming up with spurious public interest reasons for talking about it… Read more

Irwin Piper takes his sheep to slaughter

How we lost the seasons

4 January 2014
The Seasons: An Elegy for the Passing of the Year Nick Groom

Atlantic Books, pp.400, £22, ISBN: 9781848871618

So, what are you doing with your Christmas decorations? Still up? Did the tree get put out on 2 January? Maybe you’re holding out until the Twelfth Day, on the… Read more

From The Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

The best children's books for Christmas

30 November 2013

Animal stories for children are always tricky; as J.R.R. Tolkien observed in his essay on fairy stories, you can end up, as in The Wind in the Willows, with an… Read more


The man who made it OK to talk about immigration

16 November 2013

It takes a lot to make the subject of immigration respectable for liberals, at least if you’re pointing out its problematic aspects. But Paul Collier, an Oxford economist specialising in… Read more

Bridget has become unrecognisable (Image: The Kobal Collection/ Sparham Laurie)

Helen Fielding has lost her touch

19 October 2013
Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy Helen Fielding

Cape, pp.400, £18.99, ISBN: 9780385350860

To understand quite how disgruntled the reviews of the latest Bridget Jones diaries have been, you have to recall quite what she meant to her readers first time round. It… Read more


Less sex please, we're British

12 October 2013

Jeer if you will, but I was shocked by the latest Bridget Jones book, Mad About the Boy. I was shocked by the sex. No, honestly. Compared with its predecessors,… Read more

Did the Spice Girls really know what they 'really, really' wanted? Image: Getty

Do women want what they say they want?

28 September 2013
What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire Daniel Bergner

Canongate, pp.224, £10.99, ISBN: 9781782112563

What do women want? You might have thought the Wife of Bath had got this one sorted, but Daniel Bergner has brought science to bear on the perennial question. And… Read more


Why G.K. Chesterton shouldn’t be made a saint

24 August 2013

The bad news for fans of G.K. Chesterton is that there are moves afoot to make him a saint. The Catholic bishop of Northampton, Peter Doyle, is reportedly looking for… Read more


Sorry – the Vikings really were that bad

10 August 2013

Sometimes the really obvious take on history turns out to be the right one. For generations, we all assumed that the atrocities perpetrated by the Germans in Belgium at the… Read more

A corduroy-trousered  urban peasant carries home the goods from one of London’s many farmers’ markets

The Modern Peasant, by JoJo Tulloch - review

10 August 2013

You know that something’s afoot when Lakeland says so. Lakeland is the kitchenware company which has more of a finger on the pulse of Middle England than most MPs. So… Read more

The Telegraph Hay Festival 2011

Philip Bobbitt on Machiavelli, Obama and David Cameron

6 July 2013

It may be pushing it to compare Philip Bobbitt with Indiana Jones, on the basis that a constitutional lawyer will never have the exotic and uncommercial appeal of an archaeologist… Read more

A woman dressed as "Death", of the Four

Dan Brown's latest conspiracy theory - and the powerful people who believe it

25 May 2013

You know Inferno, the new Dan Brown novel, the one that’s had such fabulously bad reviews? Well, it’s not really about Dante’s Inferno at all. What it’s really about — spoiler… Read more


Travel: Ireland’s wild west

23 March 2013

The problem with writing about the Burren is that there’s no consensus about where it is. Different people have different ideas. On my first trip there, I plaintively asked a… Read more

Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique at 50

9 March 2013

It’s the 50th anniversary this year of the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. According to the quote on the cover of my Penguin edition, ‘Feminism … began with… Read more


Don’t watch The Hobbit

8 December 2012

Once, I met Priscilla Tolkien, the daughter of J.R.R. Tolkien. It was at the Oxford Catholic chaplaincy, and she was giving a talk about her father. She was charming, something… Read more

Is Iain Duncan Smith too Christian? Photo: Getty

Can you trust a Christian?

20 October 2012

For some time we have known about the tension between George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith over welfare reform. The Chancellor wanted more welfare cuts, and the Work and Pensions… Read more


The vagina fad

18 August 2012

In the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, there’s a picture that, last time I looked, was curtained off. A couple of Japanese girls came out from behind the curtain, stuffing their… Read more


Paris en famille

30 June 2012

Paris for lovers, tick. Paris for gastronomes, tick. Paris for the fashion-conscious, obviously. But children? Funnily enough, I find it one of the most child-friendly cities we go to. The… Read more

The right to squeak

12 May 2012

It’s probably tendentious to say that the feminine voice is a feminist issue, but let me say it anyway. I have, I may say, a voice that spans the vocal… Read more

Unsinkable drama

17 March 2012

The last hours of the Titanic were a perfect tragedy. No wonder we’re still obsessed What with the centenary coming up next month, it was hard to imagine anything that… Read more

A real-life whodunnit

14 January 2012
Bloody Sunday: Truth, Lies and the Saville Inquiry Douglas Murray

Biteback, pp.320, £18.99

The Saville Report into the events of Bloody Sunday is ten volumes or 5,000 pages long and was five years in the writing. The inquiry lasted 12 years, including those… Read more

Christmas for the ladies

17 December 2011

At this time of year you’ve probably had it with festive planners, Christmas countdowns and those magazine features about what presents to buy — as if picking presents, rather than… Read more