Sara Wheeler rss

Rabdentse, near Pelling, the ruined former capital of Sikkim, with Mount Kanchenjunga in the distance

The story of Sikkim’s last king and queen reads like a fairy tale gone wrong

1 August 2015
Sikkim: Requiem for a Himalayan Kingdom Andrew Duff

Birlinn, pp.388, £25, ISBN: 9781780272863

Sikkim was a Himalayan kingdom a third of the size of Wales squeezed between China, India, Nepal and Bhutan. I was there once in April, when the sky was cornflower… Read more

‘Jeddah from the sea’— sketch by Thomas Machell in one of his journals

A Victorian sailor is the new love of my life

27 June 2015
Deeper than Indigo: Tracing Thomas Machell, Forgotten Explorer Jenny Balfour Paul

Medina Publishing, pp.322, 22.95, ISBN: 9781909339538

Jenny Balfour Paul is an indigo dye expert. She has written two books on the subject, and lectures around the world. A librarian alerted her to the mention of the… Read more

ThinkstockPhotos-468770364

Dreaming of a golden future: there will always be people willing to sacrifice all in the pursuit of gold

11 April 2015
Gold Fever: One Man’s Adventures on the Trail of the Gold Rush Steve Boggan

Oneworld, pp.336, £14.99, ISBN: 9781780746968

In 2008, the price of gold lofted above $1,000 an ounce for the first time in history, inspiring a rush of small-scale panners to head for the diggings with hope… Read more

USS Jeanette Photo: Getty

The greatest American Arctic disaster

7 February 2015
In the Kingdom of Ice Hampton Sides

Oneworld, pp.454, £20, ISBN: 9781780745213

In the course of the 19th century, various flotillas of expeditions hastened to the polar regions in little wooden ships which sooner or later expired in the pincers of an… Read more

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A paralysed landscape

10 March 2012
Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of the World’s Most Mysterious Continent Gabrielle Walker

Bloomsbury, pp.388, 20

‘Very, very, very sexy’, a field-researcher scratches in his Antarctic notebook. He is describing a meteorite the size of a £1 coin that he has just picked up off the… Read more

A new world in the making

20 August 2011
Tocqueville and His America: A Darker Horizon Arthur Kaledin

Yale, pp.440, 30,

Alexis de Tocqueville is a prophet for all seasons, continually reinterpreted as the zeitgeist shifts. He sailed to Jacksonian America to compile a report on the prison system, and ended… Read more

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Way out west

21 August 2010
Lighting Out For the Territory Roy Morris Jr

v, pp.282, 17.99

This year America celebrates the cent-enary of Mark Twain’s death. This year America celebrates the cent-enary of Mark Twain’s death. He is the nearest that country gets to a national… Read more

The iceman cometh

3 September 2008
True North: Travels in Arctic Europe Gavin Francis

Polygon, pp.266, 9.99

True North: Travels in Arctic Europe, by Gavin Francis This is an old-fashioned travel book of the linear variety. Roaming the northern fringes of Europe with a tent and a… Read more

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Lust in a hot climate

7 May 2008
The Bolter Frances Osborne

Virago, pp.316, 18.99

This sprightly book recounts the life of Idina Sackville, the author’s great-grandmother. A glamorous aristocrat with a penchant for scandal, she married and divorced five times and was a protagonist… Read more

The year of the rat

22 January 2005
Rats Robert Sullivan

Granta, pp.256, 12

‘Ah,’ Robert Sullivan exclaims in this artful book, ‘the excitement, the nail-biting and palpably semi-wild thrill of ratting in the city!’ An otherwise apparently sane American writer and journalist, Sullivan… Read more

Serving Christ and colonialism

29 March 2003
The Sword and the Cross Fergus Fleming

Granta, pp.350, 20

Fergus Fleming is the author of three volumes of narrative history, the best of which, Barrow’s Boys, gives a rollicking account of 19th-century Arctic exploration. Now he has lighted on… Read more