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Ysenda Maxtone Graham rss

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Women bishops at last

19 July 2014

The result of Monday’s vote on women bishops, the Archbishop of York stipulated, must be greeted in silence, as is the convention at the General Synod. This, perhaps, was a… Read more

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The Snow Queen crawls at snail’s pace – and you wouldn’t want it any other way

The Snow Queen Michael Cunningham

Fourth Estate, pp.258, £16.99, ISBN: 9780007557677

For all would-be novelists whose stumbling block is that they can’t resist describing every single sensation in depth — the smell of a bedroom, the sound of a door closing,… Read more

A wounded soldier is carried through the mud near Boesinghe during the battle of Passchendaele in Flanders Photo: Getty

When No Man's Land is home

25 January 2014
The Lie Helen Dunmore

Hutchinson, pp.294, £14.99, ISBN: 9780091953982

Countless writers and film-makers this year will be trying their hand at forcing us to wake up and smell the first world war.  How do they plant a fresh, haunting,… Read more

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There is nothing quite like the prep-school play

7 September 2013

Letter home from prep-school boy, c. 1949: ‘Dear Mummy and Daddy, last night was the school play. It was Hamlet. A lot of the parents had seen it before, but… Read more

As Green as Grass, by Emma Smith - review

17 August 2013
As Green as Grass: Growing Up Before, During and After the Second World War Emma Smith

Bloomsbury, pp.214, £16.99, ISBN: 9781408833616

The title, the subtitle, the author’s plain name, even the jacket’s photograph of a laughing old lady in sunglasses: none of these is particularly enticing. But the book itself is… Read more

A Corner of Paradise, by Brian Thompson - review

10 August 2013
A Corner of Paradise Brian Thompson

Chatto, pp.224, £16.99, ISBN: 9780701188023

Author has late-blossoming romance with authoress, both divorcees, and they live together in a cramped house in Harrogate full of stepchildren and then buy a derelict summer house surrounded by… Read more

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Don’t jump, Felipe!

Peering over my son’s shoulder as he forced himself through a pile of practice IGCSE maths papers in readiness for this week’s exams, I was shocked both by the absence… Read more

Female undergraduates were goaded into growing vegetables by being threatened with a diet consisting only of rice

A Green and Pleasant Land: How England’s Gardeners Fought the Second World War, by Ursula Buchan – review

16 March 2013
A Green and Pleasant Land: How England’s Gardeners Fought the Second World War Ursula Buchan

Hutchinson, pp.357, £20, ISBN: 9780091944155

Here are some statistics about wartime fruit- and vegetable-growing in England which this book tells us. In 1942-3, there were 1,750,000 allotments, amounting to 100,000 acres, or an area the… Read more

Leaving Sussex

16 February 2013
Motherland William Nicholson

Quercus, pp.544, £16.99, ISBN: 9781780876203

I read William Nicholson’s new novel in proof before Christmas. ‘The must-read book for 2013 for lovers of William Boyd and Sebastian Faulks,’ it said on the back. Well, I… Read more

Telling tales out of school

26 January 2013
Wild Writing Granny Mary Sheepshanks

Stone Trough Books, pp.285, £15, ISBN: 9780954454272

The difficult thing about writing a memoir is this: how do you avoid numbing the reader with endless thumbnail sketches of the hundreds of characters who have crossed your path?… Read more

As dark and heavy as plum pudding

15 December 2012

Dressed up as a child-friendly, pocket-sized hardback, just the right size for a Christmas stocking and with a pretty front-cover illustration of two dear little children in a snowy fir… Read more

Keeping calm and carrying on

10 November 2012
These Wonderful Rumours May Smith

Virago, pp.401, £14.99, ISBN: 9781844088102

An ordinary woman, rather like yourself.’ These were Peter Fleming’s words when he commissioned Jan Struther to write what became her ‘Mrs Miniver’ columns for the Times. Critics complained then,… Read more

Radio insomnia

29 September 2012

It’s 2.43 a.m. Unable to sleep, you reach out into the night for company: literally. Out goes your arm, towards the radio on the bedside table, and you grope for… Read more

There’s something about Mary

23 June 2012
The Colour of Milk Nell Leyshon

Penguin Fig Tree, pp.171, £12.99, ISBN: 9781905490943

I like books which have their own linguistic microclimate. Fictional first-person narratives are where you tend to find these.  The moment you step inside a good one, you enter a… Read more

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A hymn to the organist

7 April 2012

Some people swoon over film stars. I swoon over organists. Good organists, that is, not bad organists. Bad organists I refer to as ‘dominant males’, because the only two chords… Read more

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Travel: Opened secret

28 January 2012

Once, Avignon was hell to get to. Now it’s an easy train journey. Let Ysenda Maxtone Graham, who has known it for decades, show you around The interminable car journeys… Read more

Rather a cold fish

31 December 2011
The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall Paul Torday

Weidenfeld, pp.288, 12.99

Published first novel (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) at the age of 59, Richard and Judy choice, won Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction; spent his whole career in… Read more

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Revving up

29 October 2011

The C of E’s pioneer women priests are waiting anxiously for their first female bishop Diocese by diocese, the Church of England is voting in favour of women becoming bishops.… Read more

The Golden Hour by William Nicholson

29 October 2011
The Golden Hour William Nicholson

Quercus, pp.438, 20

He’s got a winning formula, this writer, and he’s sticking to it. Set the action over seven days, in and around the Sussex town of Lewes, with occasional day trips… Read more

Textbook error

15 October 2011

If young people don’t want to learn languages, it might be because the teaching materials are so drearily trendy Tonight’s homework: learn ‘Bonjour’, ‘Je m’appelle,’ ‘Comment t’appelles-tu?’ ‘Ça va?’ ‘Ça… Read more