A world beyond Grafton ‘Merriecolour’ beckons...

Princess Margaret and the divorcé: a cautionary tale of 1950s woman gone astray


A review of Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes by Virginia Nicholson reveals that it wasn’t just men blocking female emancipation: women themselves were equally to blame

Self confessed mass murderer Anders Breivik Photo: Getty

Anders Breivik: a moronic knight is called to arms


A review of One of Us by Åsne Seierstad reveals a lonely misfit set on a murderous mission to purify the Nordic race

The dreadful prospect of taking up agriculture in old age

Ancients on oldies: tips on ageing from the Romans are all Greek to Richard Ingrams


Reviewing the Ancient Art of Growing Old by Tom Payne, Richard Ingrams remembers sweating blood at school translating the smug, self-satisfied Cicero

Headline News

Hock and partridge help fascism go down in 1930s London


A review of Curtain Call by Anthony Quinn celebrates London’s gay 1930s society where much is shrouded in secrecy


First novel choice: do you prefer your author on a skateboard, or in a vineyard?


Keith Miller is impressed by the latest first novels - but deplores the way publishers oversell them


John Aubrey and his circle: those magnificent men and their flying machines


A review of Ruth Scurr’s biography of John Aubrey tells how the distinguished scholar and antiquarian, friend of Pepys and Hobbes, died in penury and was buried in an unmarked grave

Mary Portas: anything but ordinary

Madly Modern Mary overcomes childhood hardships to become the Queen of Shops


Nicky Haslam admires the thoroughly extraordinary Mary Portas, monarch of the malls


A novel set in an aquarium in Seattle is as addictive as a first-class detective story


Fish become humans, humans fish in the fairy-tale world of David Vann’s poetic novel, Aquarium

‘Orange, Red, Yellow’, 1956, by Mark Rothko

A strain of mysticism is discernible in the floating colour fields of Mark Rothko’s glowing canvases

Books feature

One of the curiosities of western art is that, until the 20th century, few visual artists were of Jewish ancestry. With odd exceptions such as the Pissarros and Simeon Solomon, the culture tended to produce verbal rather than visual imaginations.… Read more

Robin Day interviews Margaret Thatcher for BBC's Panorama, 1984 Photo: Getty

How the BBC helped turn Diana into a dream princess


A review of Pinkoes and Traitors by Jean Seaton suggests that we take Auntie too much for granted

A print of girls in a gym from 1884

2,5000 years of gyms (and you’re still better off walking the dog)


In a review of the Temple of Perfection by Eric Chaline, Mark Mason sees the gym as our modern place of worship

A short-eared owl in the Highlands, one of many predators still being killed by gamekeepers
Patrice Lumumba celebrates his release so he could attend a conference on the future of the Congo.  He had been in jail on charges of inciting an anti-colonial riot, 1960 Photo: Getty

Shame on Uncle Sam: Eisenhower was guilty of monstrous hypocrisy in the overthrow of Patrice Lumumba


A review of Death in the Congo by Emmanuel Gerard and Bruce Kuklick reveals the full scandal of a 50-year-old murder


If ‘incorrect’ English is what’s widely understood, how can it be wrong?


The ‘rules’ of English grammar are often just incoherent prejudices, according to Oliver Kamm’s Accidence Will Happen


A Father’s Day tragedy: what exactly happened when a car plunged into a reservoir in Australia in 2005?


A review of This House of Grief by Helen Garner recounts how an ex-husband exacted the ultimate revenge

Poster for Pulgasari, Shin’s answer to Godzilla

The Dear Leader’s passion for films — and the real-life horror movie it led to


The plot of A Kim Jong-il Production by Paul Fischer would rival one of Ian Fleming’s own

‘The Faithful Couple’ in Yosemite National Park

When two young Britons go camping in Yosemite their lives are changed for ever


A review of The Faithful Couple by A.D. Miller recounts how one youthful ‘incident’ can permanently affect a friendship

Author John Gray Photo: Getty

John Gray is like Isaiah Berlin with a thing for sci-fi


In a review of The Soul of the Marionette Tibor Fischer celebrates the vast scope of John Gray’s reading

Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir in 1946

Sartre’s record during the Occupation didn’t qualify him to pronounce on either ‘doing’ or ‘being’


The thrill of violence was key to Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophy, says his latest biographer

A ‘nurse log’ — a tree stump in which a seed has germinated, thereby avoiding browsing herbivores and the overshading of undergrowth. From Uncommon Ground by Dominick Tyler

‘Broadband’ for ‘bluebell’...‘chatroom’ for ‘catkin’: standard vocabulary is being increasingly lost to the new technology, says Robert Macfarlane

Books feature

Wolfsnow is a dangerous blizzard at sea; slogger the sucking sound made by waves against a ship’s sides; ammil the sparkle of morning sunlight through hoar-frost; af’rug the reflection of a wave after it has struck the shore; blinter is… Read more

French mathematician Cedric Villani Photo: Getty

How could anyone enjoy Cédric Villani’s ‘Birth of a Theorem’? I think I’ve worked it out


Alexander Masters finds a great mathematician’s ‘popular’ book impenetrable from page four

Sonic Youth in happier days in 2003. Left to right: Lee Ranaldo, Jim O’Rourke, Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore and Steve Shelley

Tracey Thorn on Kim Gordon’s wounded marriage memoir


Tracey Thorn is surprised that Kim Gordon, once the embodiment of cool, should be sounding off so publicly about her husband’s infidelity

Kazuo Ishiguro Photo: Getty

Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest novel, set in a mythical fifth-century Britain, may try the patience of even his most devoted fans


James Walton, reviewing The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro finds it more admirable than enjoyable


Reading one book from every country in the world sounds like fun - until you come to North Korea


A review of Reading the World by Ann Morgan finds a year-long blog also makes a brilliant, unlikely book


Michael Arditti is the Graham Greene of our time


A review of Michael Arditti’s Widows and Orphans suggests that we are all waifs and strays now in our broken society

Portrait of Lord Dufferin, 1893

The first Lord Dufferin: the eclipse of a most eminent Victorian


A review of the Lost Imperialist by Andrew Gailey wonders how Queen Victoria’s distinguished proconsul, who met everyone from Sitting Bull to Bismarck, could have slipped so far into oblivion

After the driverless car — will airplanes be next?

Don’t buy The Glass Cage at the airport if you want a restful flight, warns Will Self


Will Self,  reviewing Nicholas Carr’s The Glass Cage, predicts the inexorable rise of the computer in a defiantly soulless society

Gillray’s satirical etching of 1795 entitled ‘The Zenith of French Glory — The Pinnacle of Liberty. Religion, Justice, Loyalty and all the Bugbears of Unenlightened Minds, Farewell!’

The revolutionaries behind the Reign of Terror were themselves living permanently in terror, says Ruth Scurr

Books feature

For his holiday reading in the summer of 1835, the literary and political journalist John Wilson Croker packed the printed lists of those condemned to death during the Reign of Terror in revolutionary France. The several thousand guillotined in Paris… Read more