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Melanie McDonagh rss

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

Grape preparation: the preferred method in north London

Politically correct wines worth drinking

28 June 2014

When the editor of this special suggested I might try some wine for him (did he need to ask twice? No!) it’s fair to say that New World wines weren’t… Read more

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Churchgoing is good for you (even if you don’t believe in God)

21 June 2014

Few people, don’t you find, are as irritating as those who define themselves as Spiritual But Not Religious? There was a riveting  piece in the Sunday Times ‘Style’ magazine last… Read more

‘Religieuses’ (from William and Suzue Curley’s Patisserie)

Recipe for a modern baker: first, move to Hoxton

21 June 2014

If I were the kind of person who invited people to come and have a bite to eat that very evening — and you’ve got to watch it in London,… Read more

Children's

The best new children's books

7 June 2014

A children’s author and illustrator, Jonathan Emmet, created a stir recently by saying that women are effectively gatekeepers of children’s books — chiefly picture books. They constitute the majority of… Read more

antisuffrage-poster

Did most women want the vote?

10 May 2014

One way or another, we’re going to be seeing quite a lot of Helena Bonham Carter and Carey Mulligan in ankle-length coats with pale faces this season. They’re in the… Read more

Paris in the springtime: the Jardin des Plantes

Paris

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

Flora-Thompson

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

Paul-Collier-Fin

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

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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

gk-chesterton-illo

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

Bloody-Vikings

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-panorama

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

BRITAIN AUCTION

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

fit-to-party

Fit to Party

1 December 2012

We all know about detoxing, right? Old-style detoxing is about laying off the toxins after the party season; the pretox is all about laying up merit so as to eat,… 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