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Peter Parker rss

‘Harmony and order were what Jane Austen sought in her life and work’. Chawton House, in Hampshire (above), was inherited by Jane’s brother, Edward.

Brains with green fingers

5 April 2014
Voltaire’s Vine and Other Philosophies Damon Young

Rider, pp.200, £12.99, ISBN: 9781846044175

‘Life is bristling with thorns,’ Voltaire observed in 1769, ‘and I know no other remedy than to cultivate one’s garden.’ This is the remedy espoused by Candide at the end… Read more

A dreadful warning: a fisherman paddles through a tide of toxic waste on the Yamuna river, against a backdrop of smog and high-rise construction

Lawlessness, corruption, poverty and pollution: the city where we're all headed

15 March 2014
Capital: A Portrait of 21st-century Delhi Rana Dasgupta

Canongate, pp.457, £25, ISBN: 9780859860026

Rana Dasgupta, who was born and brought up in Britain, moved to Delhi at the end of 2000, principally to pursue a love affair and to write his first novel.… Read more

Highly valued for its decorative qualities, the lily is the earliest known cultivated flower, dating from 1550 BC

Pine by Laura Mason; Lily, by Marcia Reiss - review

21 September 2013
Pine Laura Mason

Reaktion Books, pp.224, £16, ISBN: 9781780231013

Lily Marcia Reiss

Reaktion Books, pp.224, £16, ISBN: 9781780230931

After the success of their animal series of monographs, Reaktion Books have had the clever idea of doing something similar for plants. Writers are commissioned to investigate the botanical, historical,… Read more

L'Enfant Sauvage

Francois Truffaut, by Anne Gillian - review

31 August 2013
François Truffaut: The Lost Secret Anne Gillain

Indiana University Press, pp.336, £21.99, ISBN: 9780253008398

A Companion to François Truffaut Dudley Andrew and Anne Gillain (eds)

Wiley Blackwell, pp.640, £120, ISBN: 9781405198479

François Truffaut: The Complete Films Robert Ingram and Paul Duncan

Taschen, pp.192, £8.99, ISBN: 9783836534796

Almost 30 years after his death, François Truffaut remains a vital presence in the cinema. Terrence Malick and Wes Anderson are among maverick directors who have acknowledged their debt to… Read more

The ultimate fashion accessory?
Left: the hermitage at Dale Abbey, Derbyshire and (right) the new hermitage, Painshill, Surrey

The Hermit in the Garden, by Gordon Campbell - review

11 May 2013
The Hermit in the Garden: From Imperial Rome to Ornamental Gnome Gordon Campbell

OUP, pp.257, £16.99, ISBN: 9780199696994

In his 1780 essay On Modern Gardening Horace Walpole declared that of the many ornamental features then fashionable, the one ‘whose merit soonest fades’ was the hermitage. Inspired by the… Read more

The Blind Man’s Garden, by Nadeem Aslam – review

16 March 2013
The Blind Man’s Garden Nadeem Aslam

Faber, pp.401, £18.99, ISBN: 9780571287918

Set in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Nadeem Aslam fourth novel begins with two young Pakistani men slipping over the border into Afghanistan. Jeo is a third-year medical student who… Read more

The land of lost content

8 December 2012
A.E. Housman: Spoken and Unspoken Love Henry Maas

Greenwich Exchange, pp.61, £9.99, ISBN: 9781906075712

Published at the author’s expense in 1896, A.E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad did not at first attract many readers. It was only after it had been taken up by an… Read more

Formal Gardens

Blending the old with the new

4 August 2012
A Time to Plant: Life and Gardening at Holker Hugh & Grania Cavendish

Frances Lincoln, pp.272, 25, ISBN: 9780711232846

Holker Hall is situated in a beautiful Cumbrian landscape within sight of Morecambe Bay, and in 1950 it became the second stately home, after Longleat, to be opened to the… Read more

Girls and boys come out to play

2 June 2012
In One Person John Irving

Doubleday, pp.429, £18.99

‘You are in the polymorphous-perverse stage,’ the school psychiatrist tells the assembled boys of Favorite River Academy in Vermont in the late 1950s. Just how polymorphously perverse his audience turns… Read more

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Photo finish

19 May 2012
Liberation: Diaries, Volume III, 1970-1983 Christopher Isherwood, edited by Katherine Bucknell

Chatto, pp.875, 30

Christopher Isherwood kept diaries almost all his life. The first extant one dates from 1917, when he was 12, and like most schoolboys he used it more to measure than… Read more

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The greatest show on earth

10 December 2011
A Glimpse of Empire Jessica Douglas-Home

Michael Russell, pp.131, 17.95

Jessica Douglas-Home’s aptly titled book is based on the diaries of her grandmother Lilah Wingfield, who attended the Delhi Durbar in 1911 and then spent some weeks touring India. It… Read more

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Poetry in paint

23 July 2011
Mysterious Wisdom: The Life and Work of Samuel Palmer Rachel Campbell-Johnston

Bloomsbury, pp.382, 25

At the age of just 21, Samuel Palmer produced one of British art’s greatest self-portraits. At the age of just 21, Samuel Palmer produced one of British art’s greatest self-portraits.… Read more

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Citizen of the world

16 July 2011

When Francis King returned to Oxford at the age of 24 in order to resume an education interrupted by the second world war, he had already published two novels. ‘Eager… Read more

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Goodbye to Berlin

28 May 2011
House of Exile Evelyn Juers

Allen Lane, pp.383, £25

Peter Parker is beguiled by a novel approach to the lives of Europe’s intellectual elite in flight from Nazi Germany In his time, Heinrich Mann was considered one of Germany’s… Read more

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In the pink

2 April 2011
The Morville Year Katherine Swift

Bloomsbury, pp.316, £18.99

In 1988 Katherine Swift took a lease on the Dower House at Morville Hall, a National Trust property in Shropshire, and created a one-and-a-half acre garden in what had been… Read more

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Planting a dream

5 March 2011
The Founding Gardeners: How the Revolutionary Generation Created an American Eden Andrea Wulf

Heinemann, pp.372, 20

Every schoolboy knows the story of six-year-old George Washington taking his ‘little hatchet’ to his mother’s prized cherry tree. Every schoolboy knows the story of six-year-old George Washington taking his… Read more