Sarah Burton rss

Portrait of Thomas Day by Joseph Wright

Male-order bride

23 February 2013
How to Create the Perfect Wife Wendy Moore

Weidenfeld, pp.336, £18.99, ISBN: 9780297863786

If you want to learn how to create the perfect wife, you should not read this book. You should make an emergency appointment with reality and remain under self-imposed house… Read more

Marilyn was murdered

7 July 2012
Conspiracy! 49 Reasons to Doubt, 50 Reasons to Believe Ian Shircore

John Blake/Adlib, pp.288, 7.99, ISBN: 9781843583776

In The Mill on the Floss, having been given a ‘petrifying’ summary of Daniel Defoe’s History of the Devil by young Maggie, Mr Riley challenges Mr Tulliver with allowing his… Read more


Art for ransom

27 August 2011
Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Story of Notorious Art Heists Anthony M. Amore and Tom Mashberg

Palgrave Macmillan, pp.272, 15.99

Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners Sandy Nairne

Reaktion Books, pp.224, 20

These two books make mutually illuminating and surprisingly contrasting companions, given the similarity of their subjects. Both are written by those with hands-on experience in the field of art preservation… Read more

His island story

4 November 2009
The Man-eater of Punanai Christopher Ondaatje

Rare Books & Berry, pp.237, 9.95

‘If you don’t come to terms with the ghost of your father, it will never let you be your own man.’ Here Christopher Ondaatje (brother of novelist Michael) combines his… Read more

First knight and his lady

15 October 2008
A Strange, Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving and Their Remarkable Families Michael Holroyd

Chatto, pp.590, 25

A Strange, Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving and Their Remarkable Families, by Michael Holroyd It is rare today to come across a non-fiction book that… Read more

A fascinating woman, ill-served

10 September 2008
Star of the Morning: The Extraordinary Life of Lady Hester Stanhope Kirsten Ellis

Harper Press, pp.464, 25

Star of the Morning: The Extraordinary Life of Lady Hester Stanhope, by Kirsten Ellis Unlike her republican-minded father, ‘Citizen Stanhope’, Hester declared ‘I am an aristocrat and I make a… Read more

The net result

30 July 2008
Vermeer’s Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World Timothy Brook

Profile, pp.272, 18.99

Vermeer’s Hat turns on its head the conventional relationship between a history book and its illustrations. The seven paintings and one plate reproduced here are not intended to give us… Read more

Dramatic thrills and chills

7 May 2008
Stage Directions: Writing on Theatre, 1970-2008 Michael Frayn

Faber, pp.268, 20

To be a member of a good audience is exhilarating. The sounds that it makes around you are as much a part of the show as the sounds from the… Read more

Inscrutable lords of the deep

21 November 2007
Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America Eric Jay Dolin

W. W. Norton & Co., pp.479, 27.95

The sperm whale, more than any other whale, has captured the public’s imagination, to the point that when the average person envisions a whale, it is the sperm whale that… Read more

Nanny comes to the rescue

26 September 2007
Jennie Churchill Anne Sebba

John Murray, pp.416, 25

Footballers’ wives and girlfriends, pop stars’ and politicians’ sons and daughters, are gilded by proximity to the golden ones, often regardless of their own intrinsic talent (or lack of it).… Read more


The invisible woman

1 August 2007
The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History Linda Colley

HarperPress, pp.pp. 363, £25

Elizabeth Marsh was an undistinguished member of an unremarkable dynasty. She was neither famous nor infamous and had no conspicuous talent except, perhaps, for survival. Her father’s family was involved… Read more

The Welshman in the Court of Vienna

20 September 2006
Freud’s Wizard: The Enigma of Ernest Jones Brenda Maddox

John Murray, pp.354, 25

In the opening pages of Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller books are memorably divided into certain useful categories: Books You Needn’t Read, Books You Mean To… Read more

Challenged at the top level

10 December 2005
Bald: From Hairless Heroes to Comic Combovers Kevin Baldwin

Bloomsbury, pp.229, 9.99

Coming as I do from a long line of hairless wonders, baldness has fascinated me since childhood. One of my earliest memories is of my father harvesting and boiling nettles… Read more

Lucky dip for lovers

10 September 2005
The Ladies’ Oracle Cornelius Agrippa

Bloomsbury, pp.110, 6.99

First published in 1857, The Ladies’ Oracle dates from a period when very little literature of real merit was widely considered appropriate reading material for respectable young women, with the… Read more

Mother both superior and inferior

5 March 2005
George Sand Elizabeth Harlan

Yale, pp.376, 25

In January 1831 26-year-old Aurore Dupin Duvenant abandoned her secure provincial existence, her husband and small children, and set out for Paris and la vie bohème. She soon took a… Read more

Famous for being famous

22 January 2005
The Prince’s Mistress: A Life of Mary Robinson Hester Davenport

Sutton, pp.274, 20

Perdita: The Life of Mary Robinson Paula Byrne

HarperCollins, pp.477, 20

Perdita: Royal Mistress, Writer, Romantic Sarah Gristwood

Bantam, pp.409, 20

Mary Robinson: actress, poet, novelist, playwright, feminist and London bus. One could wait over a century for a biography of her and then three come along at once. Had London… Read more

Birds in a gilded cage

25 September 2004
Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III Flora Fraser

John Murray, pp.476, 25

George III freely acknowledged he was in no hurry to see his daughters married: ‘I am happy in their company, and do not in the least want a separation.’ As… Read more