German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Photo: Getty

The Nightwatches of Bonaventura: a masterpiece of German Gothic


Tom Hodgkinson rediscovers August Klingemann’s dark classic

Virtually identical in their languorous loucheness. Clockwise from top left: Louise de Kérouaille Barbara Palmer, Moll Davis and Nell Gwyn

The merry monarch and his mistresses; was sex for Charles II a dangerous distraction?


A review of The King’s Bed by Don Jordan and Michael Walsh finds the king’s concubines disappointingly greedy and self-seeking


There’ll be no end of a bloodbath if Isis is not contained now


A review of Patrick Cockburn’s The Rise of the Islamic State suggests that the rise of IS was plain for all to see, but we chose not to look

The face of evil: Irma Grese, one of the most hated of all camp guards, trained at Ravensbrück before moving to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Survivors testified to her extreme sadism, including her use of trained, half-starved dogs to savage prisoners

The ‘rabbits’ of Ravensbrück: a horrific account of the medical experiments performed at Hitler’s only all-female concentration camp


A review of If This is a Woman by Sarah Helm offers some shreds of hope in the heroic behaviour of many of the camp inmates

Muriel Lester looks on as John Galsworthy lays a brick at the foundation ceremony for the Kingsley Hall Photo: Getty

Soup, socialism and suffragettes: radical Christianity at Kingsley Hall


A review of The Match Girl and the Heiress explores the unlikely collaboration of a factory worker and a middle-class Lady Bountiful to spread social justice in a London slum

King Louis IX embarks for the Crusades

The forgotten flowering of the medieval mind

Books feature

For those who imagine the medieval period along the lines of Monty Python and the Holy Grail — knights, castles, fair maidens, filthy peasants and buckets of blood and gore (you know, all the fun stuff) — Johannes Fried’s version… Read more

Lodge: the proof that aspiration does not mean surrendering the virtues of your class

David Lodge: confessions of a wrongly modest man


Quite a Good Time to be Born is the memoir of a good man written by a great novelist

Will Boast
Author Adam Thirwell Photo: Ulf Andersen/Getty

Lurid & Cute is too true to its title


Adam Thirlwell’s ‘tale of suburban sex and violence’ has lost whatever charm his narrative voice once possessed

Maggie Smith as Jocasta in Jean Cocteau’s ‘The Infernal Machine’, Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, 1986

Brian Aldiss unpicks the Jocasta complex


A sassy retelling of two women’s stories from Greek mythology

Blikkiesdorp, the shack settlement where Asad lived for the two years during which he and Jonny Steinberg collaborated on the book

Refugees and resilience: a story of Africa


Jonny Steinberg finds A Man of Good Hope in ‘the asshole of Cape Town’

Princess Bamba, Catherine and Sophia Duleep Singh at their debut at Buckingham Palace, 1894

Sophia Duleep Singh: from socialite to socialist


Anita Anand tells the story of an unlikely suffragette


A ghost story without the scary bits


Scott Blackwood’s ultra-clever See How Small is a novel written to be studied, not read


The best new crime novels (and a rule for enjoying them)


Jeff Noon on Peter May’s Runaway, Dan Kavanagh’s Putting The Boot In, Ferdinand von Schirach’s The Girl Who Wasn’t There, Eric Lundgren’s The Facades

Peking, c. 1290 (private collection), from ‘The Book of Ser Marco Polo’, edited by Henry Yule, 1903

The real mystery is how it got published


Benjamin B. Olshin’s The Mysteries of the Marco Polo Maps is an unconvincing speculation – but a reminder of a great story does not convince our reviewer


Making physics history


In The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time, Roberto Mangabeira Unger and Lee Smolin attempt to bring modesty to physics


A major-general names the guilty men


Christopher Elliott’s High Command is a study of what’s wrong at the MoD, and an excellent primer for the Chilcot report

Tolstoy with his secretary at Yasnaya Polyana, 1906

The prophet Tolstoy and his dodgy vicar


In Tolstoy’s False Disciple, Alexandra asks many questions, but doesn’t always answer them

The Merchant (left) and the Physician from the Ellesmere manuscript of the Canterbury Tales

A window on Chaucer’s cramped, scary, smelly world

Books feature

Proust had his cork-lined bedroom; Emily Dickinson her Amherst hidey-hole; Mark Twain a gazebo with magnificent views of New York City. Where, then, did the father of English poetry do his work? From 1374 till 1386, while employed supervising the… Read more


An ill-waged war against the war on drugs


A review of Johann Hari’s Chasing the Scream finds there are still no clear answers over the benefits of prohibition or legalisation

Mary Anne Disraeli by James Godsell Middleton

Politics as costume drama: Mr and Mrs Disraeli may have been considered vulgar, but they never went unnoticed


A review of Mr and Mrs Disraeli by Daisy Hay paints a glowing picture of the marriage of two political minds

English knight and Earl of Pembroke, William Marshall Photo: Getty

William Marshal: one of England’s great magnates


A review of Thomas Asbridge’s The Greatest Knight suggests that the man considered the ‘power behind five English thrones’ remains a decidedly grey eminence


The really shocking thing about Michel Houllebecq’s Soumission — he rather likes Islam

Secondary Feature

Michel Houellebecq’s sixth novel, imagining an Islamic government taking power in France in 2022, has been widely assumed to be an act of pure provocation. He is, after all, the author who faced legal trouble after having said in an… Read more


Time-travel, smugglers, arsenic — what’s not to like in Sally Gardner’s novel for teenagers?


A review of The Door that Led to Where promises adventures and a clever juxtaposition of 19th- and 21st-century worlds

‘Ash tree in Winter, 2010–13

Patrick George: painting in all weathers in his nineties


Andrew Lambirth finds a stringent radicalism at the heart of one of our most unassuming and decorative artists

Edith Pearlman in 2012

Where have all the literary journals gone? The home of the short story in Britain has vanished

Books feature

I am not sure if it’s properly understood quite what a crisis the short story is now in. Superficial signs of success and publicity — such as Alice Munro winning the Nobel, or the establishment of another well-funded prize —… Read more


Cowboys and Muslims: that’s the new global power struggle, according to the latest great American novel


The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis is a furious, sprawling work of fiction exploring ‘the slippery algebra of enemies’