Lord Shaftesbury (Photo: Getty)

Murder on Grub Street


M.J Carter’s The Infidel Stain, set in the dark alleys of Dickensian London, combines pornography and the Chartist movement in high Victorian melodrama


Between town and country


The perpetual dilemma of where to live is explored in Melissa Harrison’s vibrant novel of roots and belonging

Gyalo Thondup (right) pictured with the Dalai Lama on their arrival in India in 1959

From diplomacy to disillusion with the Dalai Lama’s big brother


Gyalo Thondup, brother of the Dalai Lama, recalls in detail his many years directing Tibet’s foreign policy. But can we believe him?, asks Jonathan Mirsky

Latrines dating from the second century at Ostia Antica, outside Rome

How the Romans went about their business


We know a lot about Roman baths, says Peter Stothard, but not so much about their lavatories. Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow in The Archeology of Sanitation in Roman Italy has the subject comprehensively covered

Critic James Wood (Photo: Getty)

The theory wars have ended in stalemate


James Wood, Michael Hoffmann and the state of modern literary criticism


Women go off the rails


In a review of Caryl Phillips’s The Lost Child, Alex Clark finds shades of Emily Brontë in this novel about the erasure of female experience

Plotinus and Michel de Montaigne are included in George Steiner’s broad survey. His argument that we should elevate the pursuit of disinterested knowledge over the making of money is a familar one since classical times

From Plotinus to Heidegger: a history of European thought in 48 pages


George Steiner is a deeply erudite, elegant writer, with a profound knowledge of European culture. It’s a pity his latest essay, full of lovely disquisitions, lacks a single original argument

Magnus Mills (Photo: Getty)

The mysterious pleasure of Magnus Mills


Magnus Mills’s novel The Field of the Cloth of Gold is certainly not about is Henry VIII. And what it is about doesn’t really matter. Just enjoy its pure word music

From Russia with love

London’s Russian oligarchs are even more Gatsby than Gatsby


Vesna Goldsworthy’s novel about Moscow-on-Thames is a tense, witty page-turner, says Viv Groskop


Murder in a black Texas Arcadia


Attica Locke’s smart legal thriller, Pleasantville, is set in an elegant suburb of Houston, specifically designed for middle-class blacks. But it’s still a ghetto — with very few exit points

Tippi Hedren helps save schoolchildren in The Birds. Hitchcock confided to François Truffaut that he’d had ‘some emotional problems’ with Hedren during the shoot. For the final scene, live birds were attached to Hedren’s clothes. The actress became increasingly hysterical over the course of the week it took to film it, and when a bird finally went for her eyes, she collapsed

A profile of the worlds’s most famous film director — with the most famous profile


The Master of Suspense was full of fear and paranoia himself, reveals Christopher Bray in a review of two lives of Alfred Hitchcock

Philip Glass's seminal 1976 opera 'Einstein on the Beach' in its most recent outing

Plumber, taxi driver, mystic, musician — the many facets of Philip Glass

Books feature

Philip Glass is by now surely up there in the Telemann class among the most prolific composers in history. There must be an explanation, preferably a non-defamatory one, for how his technique has enabled him to produce such an enormous… Read more

Following Galileo’s discoveries, a rugged, cratered moon is depicted (with papal approval) by Ludovico Cigoli in his ‘Assumption of the Virgin in the Pauline Chapel’

Moving heaven and earth: Galileo’s subversive spyglass


A review of Galileo’s Telescope reveals how once it was considered the most dangerous instrument in the world

The influence of money: a donor who helped build the fifth-century Basilica of Aquileia is commemorated in a mosaic portrait

Paying and praying: economics determined theology in the early Christian church


In a review of Peter Brown’s The Ransom of the Soul A.N. Wilson finds that the afterlife of the early Christians was largely influenced by money

Was Mrs Thatcher religious? Photo: Getty

Did Mrs Thatcher ‘do’ God? Denis thought so, and he should know, says Charles Moore


Riots, unemployment, Sunday trading, Aids, apartheid, The Satanic Verses — in a review of God and Mrs Thatcher by Eliza Filby, Charles Moore reveals a whole sweep of subjects where the two coincided

Author Irvine Welsh Photo: Getty

Taxi ride to the dark side: a thrilling blast of full-strength Irvine Welsh


In a review of A Decent Ride, James Walton finds that Irvine Welsh is not a writer who’s mellowing with age


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


In a review of Gold Fever by Steve Boggan Sara Wheeler discovers that the search for gold is as addictive as crack cocaine

Why do footballers hug each other when a goal is scored? It’s all to do with grooming

Sense and sensibility: what your fingertips tell your brain


Footballers and vampire bats have a touching amount in common, discovers William Leith in a review of Touch by David J. Linden

Captain Polina Osipenko (co-pilot and commander of the plane), deputy to the supreme soviet of the USSR Valentina Grizodubova (navigator), and senior lieutenant Marina Raskova Photo: Getty

As deadly as the male: female Russian pilots of the second world war were femmes fatales in every sense


In a review of Defending the Motherland by Lyuba Vinogradova, Charlotte Hobson celebrates the courage and stamina of Stalin’s ‘night witches’

The importance of illustration: Babar et le Professeur Grifaton by Laurent de Brunhoff

Under Harry Potter’s spell: most children’s books have become shamelessly derivative, says Melanie McDonagh


Melanie McDonagh enjoys browsing Daniel Hahn’s new Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature, but wishes it had pictures


Ebola personified: a cackling villain with a master plan of destruction


Anthony Cummins finds breezy irony in Amir Tag Elsir’s disturbing novel about the first outbreak of Ebola 40 years ago

King John at Runnymede: at odds with his barons, he came to rely on mercenaries whom he couldn’t afford

King John was not a good man: two distinguished historians echo A.A. Milne


Allan Massie finds that King John’s reputation goes from bad to worse - and that Richard III seems a paragon by comparison


Why is a fish like a bicycle? Pedro Friedeberg’s letters to Duncan Fallowell may provide a clue at last

Secondary Feature

The year 2015 has been designated one of Anglo-Mexican amity, with celebrations planned in both countries by both governments. But it looks as though one name will be missing from the list: Pedro Friedeberg’s. ‘Who?’ you may ask. Well, in… Read more

RAMC stretcher-bearers from the South Eastern Mounted Brigade enter the Field Ambulance dressing station at Y Ravine. Picture courtesy of Stephen Chambers

The other trenches: the Dardanelles, 100 years on

Books feature

In August 1915, in his tent at GHQ on the Aegean island of Imbros, General Sir Ian Hamilton, commander-in-chief of the Gallipoli expedition, woke from a dream in which someone was attempting to drown him in the Hellespont. ‘For hours… Read more

Rex Whistler’s portrait of Edith Olivier on a day bed at Daye House, Wilton, 1942

When Rex met Edith: a meeting of minds in interwar England


Anna Thomasson’s A Curious Friendship details the artist Rex Whistler’s shared fantasy land with the much older novelist Edith Olivier

Disturbed patients in a London lunatic asylum, 1838. From 'Sketches in London' by James Grant. Photo: Getty Images

Back to Bedlam: Patrick Skene Catling on the book that makes madness visible


It turns out that mental illness isn’t a new invention. Andrew Scull’s Madness in Civilization reviewed

Author DJ Taylor Photo: Getty

The secret life of the short story


They’re modest in scale, but can conceal a tendency to megalomania. Reviews of D.J. Taylor’s Wrote For Luck and The Boy Who Could See Death by Salley Vickers

Couple in heated argument

Melissa Kite comes out fighting. Again


Emily Rhodes reviews The Girl Who Couldn’t Stop Arguing, which our columnist assures us is not an autobiographical work