Molly Guinness rss

Molly Guinness is The Spectator’s archivist.

Will Boast

Life doesn’t care if your misery has a plot – but readers do

24 January 2015
Epilogue Will Boast

Granta, pp.281, £12.99, ISBN: 9781847088208

Sometimes writers have to get a memoir out of their system before they can start on their great novel. Will Boast spent years trying to turn his life story into… Read more

Norman Mailer and Dylan Thomas Photo: Getty

Lolita's secret revenge mission, and other daft theories of literary spite

25 October 2014
Literary Rivals: Feuds and Antagonisms in the World of Books Richard Bradford

The Robson Press, pp.304, £14.99, ISBN: 9781849546027

Richard Bradford has written more than 20 books of literary criticism and biography. This latest one is a compendium of writers’ feuds and resentments. Reading Literary Rivals is a curious… Read more

Girls sitting South Korea’s famously competitive university entrance test. North London Collegiate offers IBs instead

Escape from the hothouse

6 September 2014

South Korea’s education system puts us to shame. Last year the BBC tested a group of 15- and 16-year-olds with some questions from a GCSE maths paper; they all finished… Read more

Lillian Hellman chats with her lover, author Dashiell Hammett Photo: Time & Life/Getty

Lillian Hellman lied her way through life

5 July 2014
Lillian Hellman: An Imperious Life Dorothy Gallagher

Yale, pp.143, £18.99, ISBN: 9780300164978

Lillian Hellman must be a maddening subject for a biographer. The author Mary McCarthy’s remark that ‘every word she writes is a lie, including “and” and “the”’ wasn’t far off.… Read more


Sugata Mitra interview: ‘A reduction in resources can cause something nice to happen’

10 May 2014

Fifteen years ago, Sugata Mitra, a scientist from Calcutta, conceived of an interesting experiment. He went to a slum in Delhi, installed a computer into a public wall in the… Read more

Coco Chanel (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty)

From Göring to Hemingway, via Coco Chanel – the dark glamour of the Paris Ritz at war

19 April 2014
The Hotel on Place Vendôme Tilar J. Mazzeo

Harper, pp.320, £20, ISBN: 9780061791086

In Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen did a good job of showing how foolish it is to be obsessed by previous generations who’ve passed through Paris. Going back through the… Read more

A Victorian nanny plays 

What nannies know

14 December 2013
Love, Nina Nina Stibbe

Viking, pp.318, £12.99, ISBN: 9780670922765

Nanny Knows Best: The History of the British Nanny Katherine Holden

The History Press, pp.224, £18.99, ISBN: 9780752461748

Secrets of a Pet Nanny Eileen Riley

Elliott & Thompson, pp.228, £11.99, ISBN: 9781909653221

Soon after moving to London at the age of 20, Nina Stibbe wrote to her sister Vic saying, ‘Being a nanny is great. Not like a job really, just like… Read more

Diana Cooper,with her son John Julius Norwich in London, 1944

Darling Monster, edited by John Julius Norwich - review

12 October 2013
Darling Monster: The Letters of Diana Cooper to her son John Julius Norwich, 1939–1952 John Julius Norwich

Chatto, pp.528, £25, ISBN: 9780701187798

It must have been awful for Diana and Duff Cooper to be separated from their only child during the war, but we can be grateful for it because it’s a… Read more


The best teachers make you fall in love with a subject

7 September 2013

My brother’s Classics teacher Mr Maynard had a pet rock called Lithos (Greek for stone); his teaching methods included ‘subliminal learning’ sessions, during which he’d walk around the room conjugating… Read more

Death by Dior, by Terry Cooper - review

10 August 2013
Death by Dior Terry Cooper

Dynasty Press, pp.264, £10.99, ISBN: 9780956803863

This book may sound like it’s going to be about high fashion, but it’s actually about Nazism, satanism, incest and murder. Françoise Dior decided that her uncle Christian had been… Read more

The Girl from Station X, by Elisa Segrave - review

29 June 2013
The Girl from Station X Elisa Segrave

Union Books, pp.354, £18.99, ISBN: 9781908526120

On her seventh birthday, Elisa Segrave’s five-year-old brother Raymond drowned in their grandmother’s swimming pool. From that day onwards, her mother Anne was emotionally detached and alcoholic. ‘My mother was… Read more


Daniel Radcliffe: why are the leaders of our political parties so uninspiring?

22 June 2013

Daniel Radcliffe is wearing the standard rehearsal outfit of T-shirt, black jeans and trainers. ‘Ah, this is for The Spectator. I probably shouldn’t have worn my fake Che Guevara T-shirt.’… Read more

Plus ça change.... Hair by Indira Schauwecker for Toni & Guy, Covent Garden, 2000,
and ‘Coiffure à la Belle Poule’ during the period of American Independence

Hairstyles Ancient and Present, by Charlotte Fiell - review

8 June 2013
Hairstyles Ancient to Present Charlotte Fiell

Goodman Fiell, pp.512, £30, ISBN: 9781847960405

The key thing in 18th-century France was to get the hair extremely high. Perching on a small ladder behind his client, a Parisian hairdresser could pull off all sorts of… Read more


We must save the bread-and-butter letter from extinction

4 May 2013

When my parents received a thank-you letter from a good friend recently, we all read it with (I’m afraid) not affectionate pleasure but a rising sense of indignation. The trouble… Read more


'Diana Vreeland', by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart - review

9 March 2013
Diana Vreeland Amanda Mackenzie Stuart

Thames and Hudson, pp.329, £19.95, ISBN: 9780500516812

Over 80 and almost blind, Diana Vreeland was wheeled around a forthcoming costume exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum, issuing instructions all along the way about hats, shoes, lights and mannequins.… Read more

Women, beware these women

5 January 2013
The New Rules: The dating dos and don’ts for the digital generation Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider

Piatkus, pp.256, £9.99, ISBN: 9780749957247

When Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider read this review, they’ll exchange a pitying smile and quietly start waiting for my distress call. For woe betide any woman who thinks she… Read more

Slippery slopes

3 November 2012
Winter Games Rachel Johnson

Fig Tree, pp.323, £14.99, ISBN: 978014-048697

Being sent to finishing school in Bavaria in 1936 was a dream for some English girls: there were winter sports and sachertorte, opera and sausages, and troupes of handsome Nazis… Read more

A variety of kitchen utensils, most of which are familar today,  by the Dutch painter Cornelis Jacobsz Delff, 1570-1643

The whole kitchen caboodle

27 October 2012
Consider the Fork Bee Wilson

Particular Books, pp.364, £20, ISBN: 9781846143403

Pretentious, effeminate, sinister and even obscene, the fork of folktale was a sign of loose morals, silly decadence or sexual deviancy. To insist on eating with a fork was a… Read more

UCAS Prepare To Help Thousands Of Students To Find University Places

Applying myself

22 September 2012

The harvest is in, the smell of dried leaves is in the air, Parliament’s back in session, and pretty soon the 17-year-olds will start ringing: the university admissions deadline is… Read more

Manet’s ‘Répose’. Berthe Morisot’s dress is acceptable for receiving close friends at home, but not for going out in

Finery down to a fine art

22 September 2012
Fashion in Impressionist Paris Debra N. Mancoff

Merrell, pp.160, £24.95, ISBN: 9781858945828

The Impressionists adored clothes. They delighted in strapontins, polonaises and paletots; fans, hats and umbrellas were an extra treat. They were keen on couture, but they didn’t restrict themselves to… Read more

A Valparaiso romance

30 June 2012
Maria and the Admiral Rachel Billington

Orion, pp.350, £18.99, ISBN: 9781409111399

More than 150 years after her last publication, the narrator of this novel, the travel writer Maria Callcott, has taken up her pen to tell all about her friendship with… Read more

The attraction of repulsion

31 March 2012
That’s Disgusting Rachel Herz

W.W. Norton, pp.274, 16.99

Take some boiled maize, chew it, spit it out, put the mixture into an urn, bury it, dig it up several days later, and Bob’s your uncle: the Ecuadoran delicacy… Read more

Ecoutez bien!

18 February 2012
French Children Don’t Throw Food: Parenting Secrets from Paris Pamela Druckerman

Doubleday, pp.368, 15

The French make it look easy: small babies sleep through the night, toddlers calmly eat four-course lunches, well-dressed mothers chat on the edge of the playground rather than running around… Read more

Don’t mention the war

10 December 2011
Major/Minor Alba Arikha

Quartet, pp.217, 15

It wasn’t easy being the daughter of the artist Avigdor Arikha. In this memoir, Alba Arikha mixes teenage fury with glimpses of her godfather Samuel Beckett and a fragmented account… Read more

Chagrin d’amour

19 November 2011
The Horror of Love: Nancy Mitford and Gaston Palewski in Paris and London Lisa Hilton

Orion, pp.263, 20

The horror of love: Nancy Mitford’s first fiancé was gay; her husband, Peter Rodd, was feckless, spendthrift and unsympathetic, and her great amour, Gaston Palewski, was endlessly unfaithful. She met… Read more