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Books

Rachel Cusk

When Rachel Cusk went to Greece: would she be nice or nasty?

Books

A review of Outline, by Rachel Cusk. A surprisingly compelling, dream-like new novel from the acclaimed but difficult author

Screenwriter William Goldman Photo: Getty

How dare this author trash one of the great screenwriters of the 20th century?

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A review of William Goldman, by Sean Egan. Cursorily researched and wretchedly written, this biography needn’t be taken seriously

Scenes from a long life. Left to right: the vulnerable young queen, in thrall to Prince Albert; overcoming her demons with the help of John Brown — depicted in a popular souvenir cut-out; and the matriarch as Empress of India

Idle, depressed, weird – and wonderful: what Queen Victoria was really like after Albert

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Do we really need a thumping new life of Queen Victoria? She seems to be one of our most familiar figures, the subject of countless books; but the surprising fact is that there hasn’t been a full, authoritative study since… Read more

A British patrol advancing along the Waw river, Burma Photo: Getty

The forgotten flank of the forgotten corps of the Forgotten Army

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A review of Another Man’s War, by Barnaby Phillips. A book about courage and friendship that transcends time, distance and race

David Mitchell Photo: Getty

How on earth did David Mitchell's third-rate fantasy make the Man Booker longlist?

Books

A review of The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell. This restless new novel is full of student satire and undercooked fantasy

‘Some find their death by swords and bullets; and some by fluids down the gullet’. Thomas Rowlandson’s illustration of ‘The English Dance of Death’ by William Combe, 1815 — a satire on the evils of drinking gin

Enjoy gin but don’t read books? Or read them only while drinking gin? This is the book for you

Books

A review of Gin Glorious Gin, by Olivia Williams. A diverting, if not remotely scholarly, history that charts the social ascent of this spirit, from dram shop to the Queen Mother’s handbag

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A book about human nature that makes your head spin – in a good way

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Vincent Deary’s How We Are is crammed with ideas. William Leith can’t wait for the next two volumes

A demonstrator dressed in a Rupert Murdo

Owen Jones’s new book should be called The Consensus: And How I Want to Change it

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A review of The Establishment: And How They Get Away With It, by Owen Jones. The analysis is better when it is ideological rather than historical

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Improbable, unconvincing and lazy - Ian McEwan’s latest is unforgivable

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A review of The Children Act, by Ian McEwan. The characterisation is scant and the writing poor, and he never gives religion a chance

A romanticised portrait of Goethe by J.H.W. Tischbein

Germans see the best of their soul in Weimar. Everyone else, on the other hand...

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Thuringia, a region of former East Germany, occupies a special place in the thoughts of Germans, who like to regard it as the origin of all their best virtues. It’s an alluring place, full of wonderfully untouched stretches of densely… Read more

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This thriller is as good as anything by Hilary Mantel

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Andrew Taylor’s historical crime novel, The Silent Boy, is so good it makes you rethink all your high-low prejudices. It reminds me of Dickens

Peter Levi Photo: Getty

Peter Levi – poet, priest and life-enhancer

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A review of Peter Levi: Oxford Romantic, by Brigid Allen. A loving biography of a poet priest who went from emaciated El Greco to fat country squire

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Triumph of Apollo and Sign of Gemini, ca 1470, by Francesco del Cossa Photo: Getty

Ali Smith's How to be Both: warm, funny, subtle, intelligent – and baffling

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You may have to read this fictional account of a 15th-century painter at least one-and-a-half times to understand it, but it's worth it

A member of the London Home Guard demonstrates the use of old wallpaper as camouflage (1942)

The real Dad’s Army was no joke

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A review of Operation Sealion: How Britain Crushed the German war Machine’s Dreams of Invasion in 1940, by Leo McKinstry. Civil liberties went out the window when the Nazis threatened

American heavyweight champion Joe Frazier kept his title at the end of the fight called the "match of the century" against Muhammad Ali Photo: Getty

When boxing ruled the world

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A review of Bouts of Mania: Ali, Frazier, Foreman and an America on the Ropes, by Richard Hoffer. Boxing was as much about politics, money and race as fighting

‘Flying Rock’

Floating bodies, seeing hands, rippling skies - is Jerry Uelsmann’s photomontage a tragic dead-end?

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A review of Uelsmann Untitled: A Retrospective, by Jerry N. Uelsmann. There's no denying that these strange images are part of a venerable tradition – or that a teenager with Photoshop could have done it quicker

1920s Jewellery

In love with the lodger

Books

A review of The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters. The sex is blazingly described but then, alas, the Plot raises its boring head

‘La Guingette à Montmartre’ by Van Gogh (1886)

Exactly how much fun was it being an impoverished artist in Paris?

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A review of In Montmatre: Picasso, Matisse and Modernism in Paris, 1900 – 1910, by Sue Roe. This rollicking read is at its best when describing the bacchanalian squalor

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Kafka goes to Dubai

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A review of The Dog, by Joseph O’Neill. This riff on Kafka’s The Castle is dominated by a creep but we stay with it because the satire is absurdly funny

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In defence of the Jacobins

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A review of A People’s History of the French Revolution, by Eric Hazan. A riveting piece of revisionist history by a dyed-in-the-wool communist

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The biography that makes Philip Larkin human again

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How does Philip Larkin’s gloom retain such power to disturb? His bleakest verses have the quality of direct address, as if a poetical Eeyore were protesting directly into our ear. ‘Aubade’, his haunting night-time meditation on the terrors of death… Read more

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Is America headed for tyranny? It is when the other side's in charge...

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A review of The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America. The presidency's power is increasing ominously – although perhaps not quite as much as this book thinks

Portrait of Thomas Cromwell wearing ‘the George’, by Hans Holbein

Thomas Cromwell: more Tony Soprano than Richard Dawkins

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A review of Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII's Most faithful Servant, by Tracy Borman. More conviction is needed from this otherwise engaging new biography

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It's Henry James meets The Young Visiters, and someone needs to call social services

Books

Man at the Helm, Nina Stibbe's first novel, is like What Maisie Knew, but with laughs and four-letter words

Coco Chanel, one of the ‘rackety celebrities’ of the 1920s, with Duke Laurino of Rome on the Lido

A Hello! magazine history of Venice

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A review of Italian Venice: A History, by R.J.B. Bosworth. Informative but clichéd history of the past 200-years with guest appearances by Chanel, Coward and Diana

W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot Photo: Getty

Sorbet with Rimbaud

Books

A review of Bloomsbury and the Poets, by Nicholas Murray. A delightful guide to the rich literary history of the London district